Blood pressure is the force of the blood against the walls of the arteries. It is measured by a ratio of two numbers:
- Systolic – registered during a heartbeat (when the heart muscle contracts)
- Diastolic – registered between heartbeats (when the heart rests and refills with blood)
Blood pressure is measured in a numerical reading of millimeter of mercury, abbreviated as mm Hg. Optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg. In general, the lower your blood pressure, the better.
- 120–139/80–89 is considered pre-hypertension
- 140/90 or higher is hypertension, or high blood pressure. This puts a person at a greater risk for heart attack, angina, stroke, kidney failure and peripheral artery disease.
High cholesterol is a condition when there is too much cholesterol in the blood. High cholesterol levels can be reduced through diet and lifestyle changes as well as lipid-lowering medication if necessary. Left untreated, high cholesterol can lead to heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
Hyperlipidemia is a condition when there are too many lipids (fats) in the blood. Hyperlipidemia is commonly associated with high cholesterol and may be reduced through regular physical activity and healthy eating.
Hypertriglyceridemia is a high level of triglycerides in the blood. A high triglyceride level combined with low HDL (“good”) cholesterol or high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol seems to speed up the gathering of plaque in the arteries. A normal triglyceride level is less than 150 mg/dL. Hypertriglyceridemia has been linked to coronary artery disease.
High-density lipoprotein cholesterol is known as “good” cholesterol because high levels of HDL seem to protect against heart attacks. Low levels of HDL seem to increase the risk of heart disease. Medical experts think HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is passed from the body. Some experts believe HDL removes excess cholesterol from arterial plaque, slowing its buildup.
Low-density lipoprotein is known as “bad” cholesterol. When too much LDL circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. Together with other substances, it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms from the rupture of plaque in the wall of a blood vessel, the clot can block or narrow blood flow in the artery and cause heart attack or stroke.
A stroke is an interruption of blood flow to the brain causing paralysis, slurred speech and/or altered brain function. About nine of every 10 strokes are caused by a blockage in a blood vessel that carries blood to the brain; this is known as an ischemic stroke. The other type of stroke is known as hemorrhagic, caused by a blood vessel bursting. Warning signs include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (especially on one side); sudden confusion; trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking; dizziness; loss of balance or coordination or a sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. This means the brain and the rest of the body may not get enough oxygen.
Metabolic syndrome is not a disease in itself. Instead, it’s a group of risk factors – high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels and abdominal fat. According to the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are five risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome. To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you would have at least three of these risk factors.