One billion people worldwide have hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, and the disease is on the rise around the world. Left unchecked, the condition can lead to heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure and stroke.
More than a million people die in the U.S. every year from diseases either caused or aggravated by high blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control, hypertension is so common that as many as one-third of Americans over 20, and one half over 50, suffer from the disease. Less than half of them have it under control.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries when the heart pumps blood. There is a normal ebb and flow in blood pressure, but when pressure rises and stays high over time, it is called hypertension. It is often dubbed a “silent killer,” because it causes no symptoms as it insidiously does damage to the heart, blood vessels, brain and kidneys.
While hypertension is common and deadly, it can also largely be prevented and controlled. If diagnosed and treated early, damage to vital organs can be minimized. Following a healthy lifestyle is the hallmark of blood-pressure control: eat a balanced diet and reduce salt intake (following a low-salt diet was covered in my March column), lose weight if needed, use alcohol only in moderation, exercise regularly and do not smoke. However, sometimes hypertension persists despite best efforts, and medication is required to get it under control.
You can learn about the latest research and treatment recommendations for hypertension at a free lecture sponsored by Stanford Health Library, “Hypertension in the 20th Century: High Blood Pressure, What We Know Now and What We Need to Know,” featuring Glenn Chertow, M.D., Stanford professor of nephrology. The one-hour talk is scheduled 7 p.m. June 29 at the Redwood City Public Library, 1044 Middlefield Road. To register, call 498-7826.
For more free information on hypertension tailored to your specific questions, visit, call or email Stanford Health Library. Among the library’s holdings are many books and videos addressing the subject.
A good place to start is “The Blood Pressure Book: How to Get It Down and Keep It Down” (Bull Publishing, 2006). Authors Stephen Fortmann and Prudence Breitrose were part of the team at the Stanford Prevention Research Center (SPRC) and this book, a product of their research, provides an excellent “how to” on lowering blood pressure. It is full of charts and workbook pages to help readers monitor their progress as they work toward an optimally healthy lifestyle.
Another great resource comes from the “Johns Hopkins White Papers.” Released annually, these books provide a yearly update on a range of medical topics. Stanford Health Library carries all 12 subjects, one of which is “Hypertension and Stroke.”
The 2010 edition includes information that you may not find anywhere else, including the latest on hypertension genes, medication and supplements to avoid if you have hypertension and ways to minimize the effects of hypertension on your sex life. The White Papers are printed in a magazine style and are inviting reads. They include a glossary of important terms, including abbreviations, and inserts that offer information on related matters, such as the DASH (low-sodium) diet, how to effectively monitor your blood pressure at home and common medications used to control blood pressure.
For those interested in lowering blood pressure through eating, a beautiful new cookbook, “Healthy Eating for Lower Blood Pressure” (Kyle Books, 2010), features more than 100 family-friendly and mouth-watering recipes. Gorgeous pictures help to whet the appetite. It would be impossible to feel deprived when eating meals that come from this book’s recipes.
Stanford Health Library is free and open to the public. The library is open in five locations: Stanford Shopping Center, Stanford Hospital, Stanford’s Cancer Center, the Taube Koret Center for Jewish Life and the Ravenswood Family Health Center.
Nancy Dickenson is head librarian at Stanford Health Library.