Hypertension FAQs

What is Hypertension?

Answer:
If you have recently been diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) you should take it seriously, but there are positive steps you can take. The odds are good that most people will have high blood pressure in their lifetime. In fact, 90% of people with normal blood pressure at age 55 are at risk for developing high blood pressure as they get older.

It’s important to know that even though high blood pressure is quite common, it is still a dangerous condition that should be monitored closely by a doctor.

What is normal blood pressure?

Answer:
Normal blood pressure is less than 120 (systolic) over 80 (diastolic) – written as 120/80.

What causes high blood pressure?

Answer:
For 85%-95% of people with high blood pressure, the cause of their high blood pressure is not known. In rare cases, high blood pressure can be caused by kidney problems, alcohol use, or birth control pills.

What are the risk factors for high blood pressure?

Answer:
The risk of developing high blood pressure increases as you get older. People with relatives that have high blood pressure are more likely to develop high blood pressure. African Americans have a very high rate of high blood pressure compared with Caucasians.

People who regularly eat food that is high in salt are more susceptible to high blood pressure. Being overweight also puts you at risk for many illnesses, including high blood pressure.

Studies have shown that people with heightened anxiety, intense anger, and suppressed expression of anger were more at risk of developing high blood pressure.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

Answer:
People with high blood pressure usually experience no symptoms unless their blood pressure is extremely high, or if they have had high blood pressure for a long time. In these cases, damage may occur in major organs, such as the heart, brain, and kidneys, as well as the small blood vessels in the eyes. It’s important to remember that if left untreated, high blood pressure may lead to serious complications.

How is high blood pressure diagnosed?

Answer:
During a regular physical exam, a doctor or other healthcare provider uses a sphygmomanometer to check blood pressure. This common device should be familiar to you: it consists of a cuff fastened around the arm, attached to a bulb. The cuff is fastened around your upper arm, and then the doctor inflates the cuff by squeezing the bulb. The doctor then releases the air from the cuff, and listens with a stethoscope for the first heartbeat that can be heard. The pressure at which the first heartbeat is heard is called systolic blood pressure. The pressure at which the doctor can no longer hear the heart sound is called diastolic blood pressure.

What are the stages of hypertension?

Answer:
Prehypertension is a blood pressure measurement of 120/80 to 139/89.

Stage 1 hypertension is defined as 140-159/90-99.

A blood pressure above those levels is considered Stage 2 hypertension.

What is the prognosis if I'm diagnosed with hypertension?

Answer:
If high blood pressure is well controlled, most serious complications can be avoided. However, for people with very high, uncontrolled blood pressure, serious problems could develop. Coronary artery disease and stroke are the most common causes of death for people with very serious high blood pressure.

Where can I get hypertension support?

Answer:
It helps to have someone in your life who understands your condition and why you have to make these lifestyle changes. Make sure you share your feelings with people you love and get their support. You may even want to find a support group in your area.

Hypertension can be a very serious condition, but with the help of your doctor, you can keep it from causing other health issues so that you can live a healthy and happy life.

What are the treatment options for hypertension?

Answer:
People with high blood pressure are urged to change their diet, exercise regularly, quit smoking, and generally lead less stressful lives. If these changes to your lifestyle aren’t effective enough, your doctor may prescribe a medication like BYSTOLIC.

While medications work well for most people and they can be extremely helpful in certain cases, not all medications work for everyone. If you feel that you are experiencing problems with your current medications, please speak with your doctor.

You should know that even with medication, making healthy lifestyle choices is not only recommended to help lower your blood pressure, it may also help improve your overall health and make you feel better.

Learn more about high blood pressure treatment options.
Learn more about BYSTOLIC.

What are the conditions related to hypertension?

Answer:
Hypertension is a risk factor itself for many more serious conditions. A description of these more serious conditions can be found below.

BYSTOLIC is a prescription medication approved for the treatment of hypertension and is not approved to treat any of the below conditions.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). In CAD, fat, plaque, and blood clots build up in the arteries. This blockage narrows the arteries, allowing less blood to get to the heart. In time, the accumulated blockages can completely restrict blood flow to the heart, causing acute coronary syndrome (ACS).

Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS). Acute coronary syndrome includes angina, which is aching or discomfort in the chest, and heart attack (also called myocardial infarction or MI). This year, about 1.2 million Americans will have a heart attack. Heart attack is the leading cause of death in the US.

Diet FAQs

Butter vs. margarine: Which is better for my heart? Which spread is better for my heart - butter or margarine?

Answer:
Margarine is made from vegetable oils, so it contains no cholesterol. Margarine is also higher in “good” fats – polyunsaturated and monounsaturated – than butter is. These types of fat help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol, when substituted for saturated fat. Butter, on the other hand, is made from animal fat, so it contains cholesterol and high levels of saturated fat.

But not all margarines are created equal – and some may even be worse than butter. In general, the more solid the margarine, the more trans fat it contains – so stick margarines usually have more trans fat than do tub margarines. Like saturated fat, trans fat increases blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. In addition, trans fat can lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol levels. Spreads such as Benecol and Promise Activ are fortified with plant stanols and sterols, which can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels.

When selecting a spread, be sure to check the Nutrition Facts panel and pay particular attention to the grams of saturated fat and trans fat. Look for products that have the lowest combined amount. Also, look for products with a low percent Daily Value for cholesterol.

If you don’t like the taste of margarine or don’t want to give up butter completely, consider using whipped or light butter. Or look for products that are a blend of butter and olive or canola oil. Per serving, these products have less fat and calories than regular butter does. The important thing is to use them sparingly.

Caffeine: How does it affect blood pressure? How does caffeine affect blood pressure?

Answer:
It’s possible that caffeine can cause a short, but dramatic increase in your blood pressure, even if you don’t have high blood pressure. The amount of caffeine in two to three cups of coffee can raise systolic pressure (the top number in your blood pressure reading) 3 to 14 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Your diastolic pressure (the bottom number) can be increased 4 to 13 mm Hg.

It’s unclear what causes this spike in blood pressure. Caffeine could block a hormone that helps keep your arteries widened. Others think that caffeine causes your adrenal gland to release more adrenaline, which causes your blood pressure to increase.

Some people who regularly drink caffeine have a higher average blood pressure than do those who drink none. Others who regularly drink caffeinated beverages develop a tolerance to it. As a result, caffeine doesn’t have a long-term effect on their blood pressure.

It’s best for most people who already have high blood pressure to limit the amount of caffeine they drink, or stop drinking caffeinated beverages. If you’re concerned about caffeine increasing your blood pressure, try limiting the amount of caffeine you drink to 200 milligrams a day – about the same amount as in two 12-ounce cups of brewed coffee. Keep in mind that the amount of caffeine in coffee and soft drinks varies by brand. Also, avoid caffeine right before activities that naturally increase your blood pressure, such as exercise, weightlifting or hard physical labor.

To see if caffeine might be raising your blood pressure, check your blood pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a cup of coffee or another caffeinated beverage you regularly consume. If your blood pressure increases by five to 10 points, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine. If you plan to reduce your intake of caffeine, do so gradually over several days to a week to avoid withdrawal headaches.

Canola oil: Does it contain toxins? I read an article on the Internet that said canola oil contains toxins that are harmful to humans. Is this true?

Answer:
Health concerns about canola oil that are being circulated on the Internet are unfounded.
Misinformation about the safety of canola oil may stem from the fact that, years ago, oil was produced from the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed oil contains very high levels of erucic acid, a compound that in large amounts can be toxic to humans. The canola plant was developed by natural crossbreeding from the rapeseed plant. Canola oil is produced from canola plants, not rapeseed plants. Canola plants have very low levels of erucic acid.

Canola oil is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. In fact, canola oil is very low in saturated fat and has a very high proportion of monounsaturated fat, so it’s a healthy and safe choice when it comes to oils.

Healthy chocolate - Dream or reality? Can chocolate be good for my health?

Answer:
Healthy chocolate sounds like a dream come true, but chocolate hasn’t gained the status of health food quite yet. Still, chocolate’s reputation is on the rise, as a growing number of studies suggest that it can be a heart-healthy choice.

Chocolate and its main ingredient, cocoa, appear to reduce risk factors for heart disease. Flavanols in cocoa beans have antioxidant effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease. Flavanols also help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function. Dark chocolate contains more flavanols than does milk chocolate. One caveat: The evidence for the healthy benefits of flavanol-rich chocolate comes mostly from short-term and uncontrolled studies. More research will be needed to confirm chocolate’s role in heart health.

In the meantime, if you want to add chocolate to your diet, do so in moderation. Why? Most commercial chocolate has ingredients that add fat, sugar and calories. And too much can contribute to weight gain, a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

Choose dark chocolate with cocoa content of 65 percent or higher. Limit yourself to no more than 3 ounces (85 grams) a day, which is the amount shown in studies to be helpful. Because this amount may provide up to 450 calories, you may want to cut calories in other areas or step up the exercise to compensate.

Juicing: What are the health benefits? Is juicing healthier than eating whole fruits or vegetables?

Answer:
Juicing probably is not any healthier than eating whole fruits and vegetables. Juicing extracts the juice from fresh fruits or vegetables. The resulting liquid contains most of the vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals (phytonutrients) found in the whole fruit. However, whole fruits and vegetables also have healthy fiber, which is lost during most juicing.

Proponents say that juicing is better for you than is eating whole fruits and vegetables because your body can absorb the nutrients better and it gives your digestive system a rest from working on fiber. They say that juicing can reduce your risk of cancer, boost your immune system, help you remove toxins from your body, aid digestion, and help you lose weight.

But there’s no sound scientific evidence that extracted juices are healthier than the juice you get by eating the fruit or vegetable itself. On the other hand, if you don’t enjoy eating fresh fruits and vegetables, juicing may be a fun way to add them to your diet or to try fruits and vegetables you normally wouldn’t eat. You can find many juicing recipes online or mix up your own combinations of fruits and vegetables to suit your taste.

If you do try juicing, make only as much juice as you can drink at one time because fresh squeezed juice can quickly develop harmful bacteria. And when juicing, try to keep some of the pulp. Not only does it have healthy fiber, but it can help fill you up. If you buy commercially produced fresh juice from a juicing stand or store, select a pasteurized product. Note that juices from some fruits and vegetables can contain more sugar than you might realize, and this can add unwanted calories and lead to weight gain.

Olive oil: What are the health benefits? If olive oil is high in fat, why is it considered healthy?

Answer:
The main type of fat found in all kinds of olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). MUFAs are actually considered a healthy dietary fat. If your diet emphasizes unsaturated fats, such as MUFAs and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), instead of saturated fats and trans fats, you may gain certain health benefits.

MUFAs and PUFAs may help lower your risk of heart disease by improving related risk factors. For instance, MUFAs may lower your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. MUFAs may also help normalize blood clotting. And some research shows that MUFAs may also benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.

But even healthier fats like olive oil are high in calories, so use them only in moderation. Choose MUFA-rich foods such as olive oil instead of other fatty foods – particularly butter and stick margarine – not in addition to them. And remember that you can’t make unhealthy foods healthier simply by adding olive oil to them.

Also, be aware that heat, light and air can affect the taste of olive oil and possibly its health-promoting nutrients. Store olive oil in a dark, room-temperature cupboard, or even in the refrigerator. The fats and healthy phytonutrients in olive oil – as well as the taste – can slowly degrade over time, so it’s probably best to use it within a year or within six months once opened.

Detox diets: Do they work? Do detox diets offer any health benefits?

Answer:
Detox, or detoxification, diets are popular, but they’re not scientifically proven.

Detox diets are touted as a way to remove toxins from the body. Specific detox diets vary – but typically a period of fasting is followed by a strict diet of raw vegetables, fruit and fruit juices, and water. In addition, some detox diets advocate using certain herbs and other supplements along with colon cleansing (enemas) to help empty the intestines. Most detox diets last seven to 10 days.

Some people report feeling more focused and energetic during and after detox diets. However, this may be due to a belief that they’re doing something good for their bodies. There’s little evidence that detox diets actually remove toxins from the body. Most ingested toxins are efficiently and effectively removed by the kidneys and liver and excreted in urine and stool.

It’s also important to consider possible side effects. Among other problems, detox diets can lead to:

  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

If you’re considering a detox diet, get the OK from your doctor first – and remember, the best diet is a healthy diet based on fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein.

Foods for healthy skin: Top picks What are the best foods for healthy skin?

Answer:
Research on the best foods for healthy skin is limited. Still, antioxidant-rich foods seem to have a protective effect for the skin. Consider these skin-friendly foods:

  • Carrots, apricots and other yellow and orange fruits and vegetables
  • Blueberries
  • Spinach and other green leafy vegetables
  • Tomatoes
  • Beans, peas and lentils
  • Fish, especially salmon
  • Nuts

On the flip side, some foods seem to be associated with skin damage. For example, some research suggests that a diet high in fat and carbohydrates promotes skin aging.

Remember, many of the best foods for healthy skin also promote good health overall. Rather than focusing on specific foods for healthy skin, concentrate on a healthy diet in general. Drink plenty of water. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Trade red meat for fish. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Include nuts, seeds and beans in your favorite meals. Opt for whole-grain breads and pasta. Limit sweets. Strive for variety as you’re making healthy choices.

Heart & Health Faqs

Pulse pressure: An indicator of heart health? What is pulse pressure? How important is pulse pressure to your overall health?

Answer:
Blood pressure readings are given in two numbers. The top number is the maximum pressure your heart exerts while beating (systolic pressure), and the bottom number is the amount of pressure in your arteries between beats (diastolic pressure). The numeric difference between your systolic and diastolic blood pressure is called your pulse pressure. For example, if your resting blood pressure is 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), your pulse pressure is 40 – which is considered a normal and healthy pulse pressure.

A high pulse pressure may be a strong predictor of heart problems, especially for older adults. Generally, a pulse pressure greater than 40 mm Hg is abnormal. A pulse pressure lower than 40 may mean you have poor heart function, while a higher pulse pressure may mean your heart’s valves are leaky (valve regurgitation).

The most important cause of elevated pulse pressure is stiffness of the aorta, the largest artery in the body. The stiffness may be due to high blood pressure or fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries (atherosclerosis). The greater your pulse pressure, the stiffer and more damaged the vessels are thought to be. Other conditions- including severe iron deficiency (anemia) and overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) – can increase pulse pressure as well.

Treating high blood pressure usually reduces pulse pressure as well.

Blood pressure: Does it have a daily pattern? Does blood pressure have a daily pattern? I've noticed that my blood pressure is always lower in the morning than at night.

Answer:
Blood pressure has a daily pattern. Blood pressure is normally lower at night while you’re sleeping and when you first wake up. As soon as you get out of bed, your blood pressure starts to rise. Your blood pressure continues to rise during the day, usually peaking in the middle of the afternoon. Then in the late afternoon and evening, your blood pressure begins dropping again.

Having an abnormal blood pressure pattern, such as high blood pressure in the morning, can mean that you have a health problem. Potential problems include:

  • Poorly controlled high blood pressure
  • Sleep apnea
  • Tumors of the adrenal gland
  • Kidney disease

Risk factors for developing an abnormal blood pressure pattern include:

  • Night-shift work
  • Caffeine use
  • Tobacco use
  • Too much stress
  • Taking blood pressure medications that don’t last 24 hours

Your doctor can tell you if an abnormal daily blood pressure pattern may need treatment. He or she may recommend a 24-hour blood pressure monitoring test. The device used for this test measures your blood pressure at regular intervals over a 24-hour period and provides a more accurate picture of blood pressure changes over a typical day and night.

What informaBeta blockers: How do they affect exercise? My doctor recently prescribed a beta blocker to lower my blood pressure. Now, when I exercise, I have trouble getting my heart rate higher than 135. Is this normal?tion can be found in my health record?

Answer:
Beta blockers slow your heart rate, which can prevent the increase in heart rate that typically occurs with exercise. This means that it might not be possible for you to reach your target heart rate – the number of heartbeats per minute you should have to ensure you’re exercising at the proper intensity level. No matter how hard you exercise when taking a beta blocker, you may never achieve your target heart rate.

There’s no precise way to predict the effect of beta blockers on your heart rate. An exercise stress test, which checks blood flow through your heart while you exercise, can measure how hard your heart pumps while you’re taking beta blockers. Your doctor can use information to adjust the target heart rate you should work to.

You can also try lowering your target heart rate by the amount that your resting heart rate has been lowered by the beta blocker. For example, if your resting heart rate has decreased from 70 to 50, then try working at a target heart rate 20 beats per minute lower than what you used to do. This way of calculating your adjusted target heart rate isn’t precise, and sometimes the peak exercise heart rate is affected much more than is the resting heart rate. An exercise stress test is the best way to establish a new target heart rate on beta blockers.

If you haven’t had an exercise stress test, you can use a perceived exertion scale, such as the Borg scale, which relies on your own judgment of how hard you’re working based on effort, breathlessness and fatigue. Ask your doctor for help finding and using an exertion scale. For most workouts, your best bet is to aim for moderate intensity.

Herbal supplements: Can they interact with heart medications? Can herbal supplements interact with my heart disease medications?

Answer:
Yes, many herbal supplements can interact with medications to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart rhythm problems and other conditions. Some interactions can be dangerous. Tell Dr. Houston if you take any vitamins or herbal supplements, and always talk to him before beginning to take a new vitamin or herbal supplement.

Some common herbal supplements, foods and vitamins that can interact with heart disease medications include:

  • St. John’s wort
  • Ginkgo
  • Ginseng
  • Garlic (in supplements due to a higher concentration, not foods)
  • Grapefruit and grapefruit juice
  • Saw palmetto
  • Danshen
  • Licorice (in supplements due to a higher concentration, not foods)
  • Hawthorn
  • Yohimbe
  • Dong quai
  • Vitamin K

If Dr. Houston tells you it’s OK to use an herbal supplement combined with a medication, make sure you follow dosing instructions carefully. Keep in mind that dosing instructions for herbal supplements can vary widely. Watch for any unusual signs or symptoms that you could be having a drug interaction, such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Skipped or rapid heartbeats

Increased or decreased blood sugar (blood glucose).

Menopause and high blood pressure: What's the connection? Is there a connection between menopause and high blood pressure?

Answer:
Blood pressure generally increases after menopause. Some doctors think this increase suggests that the hormonal changes of menopause may play a role in high blood pressure. Others think an increase in body mass index (BMI) in menopausal women may play a greater role than hormonal changes.

Menopause-related hormonal changes can lead to weight gain and make your blood pressure more reactive to salt in your diet – which, in turn, can lead to higher blood pressure. For some women, hormone therapy (HT) for menopause also may contribute to increases in blood pressure.

To control your blood pressure both before and after menopause, focus on a healthy lifestyle:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
  • Reduce the amount of salt in your diet.
  • Exercise on most days of the week.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol.
  • If you smoke, stop.

If necessary, your doctor may prescribe medication to help lower your blood pressure.

Diabetes management: Does aspirin therapy prevent heart problems? I've heard that aspirin therapy may not help prevent heart problems when you have diabetes and peripheral artery disease. Should I keep taking it?

Answer:
If you have diabetes, you’re at higher risk of heart attack and clot-related stroke (cardiovascular events). Perhipheral artery disease – a condition in which your arteries narrow, reducing blood flow to your arms and legs – also increases your risk of cardiovascular events.

Aspirin interferes with your blood’s ability to clot. Because you’re at increased risk of cardiovascular events if you have diabetes, daily aspirin therapy typically has been recommended as part of a diabetes management plan. Research has shown that aspirin therapy is effective at reducing the risk of heart attack and clot-related strokes if you’ve had a previous cardiovascular event. It also appears to reduce these risks if you’re experiencing symptoms of peripheral artery disease – such as leg cramping, numbness or weakness.

What’s not clear is whether aspirin lowers the risk of a cardiovascular event if you haven’t experienced one before and you aren’t experiencing symptoms of peripheral artery disease. More study is needed on the potential benefits and risks of aspirin therapy in these people. Aspirin therapy does have potential side effects, such as bleeding and bleeding stroke (hemorrhagic stroke). If you have diabetes, peripheral artery disease or both, ask your doctor about daily aspirin therapy, including which strength of aspirin would be best.

Habit FAQs

Sleep deprivation: A cause of high blood pressure? Is it true that sleep deprivation can cause high blood pressure?

Answer:
It’s thought that sleeping less than six hours a night could be linked to increased blood pressure.
People who sleep five hours or less a night may be at higher risk of developing high blood pressure or worsening already high blood pressure. There’s also an increased risk of high blood pressure for people who sleep between five and six hours a night, although that risk is not as high as it is for people who sleep five hours or less a night.

It’s thought that sleep helps your blood regulate stress hormones and helps your nervous system remain healthy. Over time, a lack of sleep could hurt your body’s ability to regulate stress hormones, leading to high blood pressure.

Sleeping seven to eight hours a night may play a role in the treatment and prevention of high blood pressure. Talk to your doctor for tips on getting better sleep, especially if you have high blood pressure.

Alcohol: Does it affect blood pressure? Does drinking alcohol affect your blood pressure?

Answer:
Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels. Having more than three drinks in one sitting temporarily increases your blood pressure, but repeated binge drinking can lead to long-term increases.

Heavy drinkers who cut back to moderate drinking can lower their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by 2 to 4 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a blood pressure reading) by 1 to 2 mm Hg.

If you have high blood pressure, avoid alcohol or drink alcohol only in moderation. Moderate drinking is generally considered to be:

  • Two drinks a day for men younger than age 65
  • One drink a day for men age 65 and older
  • One drink a day for women of any age

A drink is 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of beer, 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine or 1.5 ounces
(44 milliliters) of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Keep in mind that alcohol contains calories and may contribute to unwanted weight gain – a risk factor for high blood pressure. Also, alcohol can interfere with the effectiveness and increase the side effects of some blood pressure medications.

Third-hand smoke: What are the dangers to nonsmokers? What is third-hand smoke, and why is it a concern?

Answer:
Third-hand smoke is generally considered to be residual nicotine and other chemicals left on a variety of indoor surfaces by tobacco smoke. This residue is thought to react with common indoor pollutants to create a toxic mix. This toxic mix of third-hand smoke contains cancer-causing substances, posing a potential health hazard to nonsmokers who are exposed to it, especially children.

Studies show that third-hand smoke clings to hair, skin, clothes, furniture, drapes, walls, bedding, carpets, dust, vehicles and other surfaces, even long after smoking has stopped. Infants, children and nonsmoking adults may be at risk of tobacco-related health problems when they inhale, ingest or touch substances containing third-hand smoke. Third-hand smoke is a relatively new concept, and researchers are still studying its possible dangers.

Third-hand smoke residue builds up on surfaces over time and resists normal cleaning. Third-hand smoke can’t be eliminated by airing out rooms, opening windows, using fans or air conditioners, or confining smoking to only certain areas of a home. Third-hand smoke remains long after smoking has stopped. In contrast, second-hand smoke is the smoke and other airborne products that come from being close to burning tobacco products, such as cigarettes.

The only way to protect nonsmokers from third-hand smoke is to create a smoke-free environment, whether that’s your private home or vehicle, or in public places, such as hotels and restaurants.

Quit smoking, gain weight: Is it inevitable? Is weight gain inevitable after you quit smoking? What causes it?

Answer:
It’s fairly common to gain weight after you stop smoking, especially in the first few months – but it isn’t inevitable.

Smoking acts as an appetite suppressant and may slightly increase your metabolism as well. When you quit smoking, your appetite and metabolism return to normal – which may lead you to eat more and burn fewer calories. Also, your ability to smell and taste food improves after you quit smoking. This can make food more appealing, which may lead you to eat more. And if you substitute snacking for smoking, the calories may quickly add up.

To avoid weight gain when you quit smoking, make diet and exercise part of your stop-smoking plan. It may help to:

  • Get moving. Include physical activity in your daily routine. Regular exercise not only burns calories but also helps relieve withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Make wise food choices. Plan good-for-you meals that include plenty of fruits and vegetables. Eat smaller portions. Limit sweets and alcohol.
  • Choose healthy snacks. If you’re hungry between meals, opt for snacks such as fresh fruit or canned fruit packed in its own juices, low-fat air-popped popcorn or fat-free yogurt.

Above all, remember that the health benefits of being smoke-free far exceed the problems associated with even moderate weight gain.

Smoking: Does it cause wrinkles? Is it true that smoking causes wrinkles?

Answer:
Yes. So if you need another reason to motivate you to quit smoking, add premature wrinkles to the list.

Smoking can speed up the normal aging process of your skin, contributing to wrinkles. These skin changes may occur after only 10 years of smoking. The more cigarettes you smoke and the longer you smoke, the more skin wrinkling you’re likely to have – even though the early skin damage from smoking may be hard for you to see.

And smoking doesn’t cause wrinkles only on your face. Smoking also is associated with increased wrinkling and skin damage on other parts of your body, including your inner arms.

While the skin wrinkles may not be reversible, you can prevent worsening of wrinkling by quitting smoking now.

How does smoking lead to wrinkles? The nicotine in cigarettes causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the outermost layers of your skin. This impairs blood flow to your skin. With less blood flow, your skin doesn’t get as much oxygen and important nutrients, such as vitamin A. Many of the over 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke also damage collagen and elastin, which are fibers that give your skin its strength and elasticity. As a result, skin begins to sag and wrinkle prematurely because of smoking.

In addition, repeated exposure to the heat from burning cigarettes and the facial expressions you make when smoking – such as pursing your lips when inhaling and squinting your eyes to keep out smoke – may contribute to wrinkles.

White-coat hypertension: When blood pressure rises at the doctor's office. My blood pressure is always higher in the doctor's office than when I measure it at home. Why is this?

Answer:

You could have “white-coat hypertension.” White-coat hypertension occurs when the blood pressure readings you have measured at your doctor’s office are higher than they are when measured in other settings, such as your home. It’s called white-coat hypertension because the health care professionals who measure your blood pressure sometimes wear white coats.

It was thought that white-coat hypertension is caused by the stress that doctor’s appointments can create. Once you’d left the doctor’s office, if your blood pressure normalized, there wasn’t a problem.

However, doctors now think that white-coat hypertension might signal that you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure as a long-term condition. The same may also be true for people who have masked hypertension, meaning their blood pressure is normal at the doctor’s office, but spikes periodically when measured in other settings. It’s thought that even temporary increases in your blood pressure could develop into a long-term problem.

If you have white-coat hypertension, talk to your doctor about home monitoring of your condition. This can help determine if your high blood pressure only occurs in the doctor’s office, or if it’s a persistent condition that needs treatment.

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