Tone, also known as vascular tone, refers to the amount of constriction present in blood vessels. Higher tone means more constriction, which indicates more resistance to blood flow, and thus, means the heart has to work harder to pump blood.
The Vascular tone varies among different organs. The vascular tone of the pulmonary system may be different than that of the coronary vascular system. The vascular tone of blood vessels and arteries determine how hard the heart has to work to pump blood throughout the body. When there is no resistance from blood vessels, the heart is able to pump smoothly, reducing the risk of heart disease. The higher the resistance from blood vessels, the harder the heart has to pump, the higher the risk of heart disease.
Too much resistance pushing against artery walls is known as high blood pressure or hypertension. High blood pressure will, over the course of time, damage the walls of the larger arteries, such as the aorta and carotids, as well as the smaller ones, the cerebral, coronary and renal arteries. High blood pressure makes the heart work harder pumping blood throughout the body.
- Normal: <120 mm Hg and <80mmHg
- Elevated: 120-129 mm Hg and <80 Hg
- Stage 1: 130-139 mm Hg or 80-89 mm Hg
- Stage 2: 140 mm Hg or higher, or 90 mm Hg or higher
Risks of Hypertension
Uncontrolled hypertension causes arteries to become narrow, stiff and inflexible. As a result, the heart has to work harder to move blood through the body. This can result in stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. Heart failure can also damage kidneys, cause problems with vision, and affect memory.
In general, the goal is to bring blood pressure to below 120/80. However, in some cases this goal needs to be individualized, and if you have hypertension you should discuss the goal of treatment with your doctor.
Medications that have been used to reach acceptable blood pressure levels include:
- Thiazide-type diuretics
- ACE inhibitors
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers
- Beta blockers
- Calcium channel blockers
- Renin inhibitors
Medication to reduce blood pressure to acceptable levels will be determined by a medical professional.
By taking an active role in their care, patients can help to reduce hypertension by making the following modifications:
- Losing weight
- Eating more fruits, vegetables
- Eating low-fat dairy products
- Lowering the level of sodium intake
- Exercising regularly
- Cutting down on alcohol consumption
- Quitting smoking
Medication needs to be taken regularly and patients should not skip a dose.