Her doctor told her that the nicotine in a single cigarette is potent enough to raise blood pressure levels above normal. It can take 30 minutes to an hour for the effects of a cigarette to wear off and for blood pressure to return to baseline.
High blood pressure, called hypertension by doctors, affects more than 50 million Americans. Because the symptoms may not show up for years, hypertension earned the name the "silent killer." And although pinpointing the exact cause of high blood pressure in individuals is tricky, smoking is a prime culprit.
The prevalence of high blood pressure increases with age and is often related to lifestyle habits. If you're overweight and inactive and you smoke, your risk increases. Persistently elevated blood pressure can lead to so many health hazards an enlarged heart, stroke and kidney damage among them bringing the pressure down is crucial.
Most doctors recommend that patients try to restore a healthy blood pressure level by first making lifestyle changes. Here are some natural ways to prevent or reduce high blood pressure:
Jean McElroy followed these guidelines. "Exercise and my new eating habits have really helped," she says. Need proof? Her blood pressure now registers a healthier 132/82. Don't know what those numbers mean? Here's a brief lesson in interpreting a blood pressure reading.
What Do Those Numbers Mean?
Your doctor tells you your blood pressure is 120 over 70 (written as 120/70). Should you be elated or concerned?
The first number refers to your systolic blood pressure. Systolic is your maximum pressure, taken right after your heart pumps. The second number refers to your diastolic blood pressure. Diastolic is the lowest pressure you have, measured when your heart is relaxed.
The biggest change is the addition of a new category called prehypertension, which identifies people at higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
|Category||Systolic Blood |
Pressure (mm Hg)
|Diastolic Blood |
Pressure (mm Hg)
|Normal||Less than 120||and||Less than 80|
|Stage 2||160 or higher||or||100 or higher|