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May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Chances are you or someone you know has high blood pressure, medically known as hypertension.  It is one of the most common medical conditions in the world.  According to the CDC, about 1 of 3 U.S. adults – 67 million people – has high blood pressure.  It was the primary or contributing cause to more than 360,000 American deaths in 2010; that is approximately 1,000 deaths per day.  Understanding your BP numbers, knowing your risk level, and implementing healthy habits are all key factors to lowering blood pressure.

High blood pressure is the force of blood on walls of your blood vessels.  While it is perfectly normal for your blood pressure to fluctuate throughout the day, it is unhealthy for it to be consistently high.  Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).  There are two numbers associated with BP, systolic and diastolic.  Systolic pressure (the top number)   is the force on the blood vessel walls when the heart beats and pumps blood out of the heart.  Diastolic pressure (the bottom number) is the force that occurs when the heart relaxes between beats.   According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, high blood pressure measures higher than 140/90 mmHg, pre-hypertension between 120/80 and 139/89 and normal 120/80 or less.  When a person has high blood pressure, his heart has to work too hard, the walls of the arteries harden, and it can cause the brain to hemorrhage or kidneys to fail.  Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart and kidney disease, stroke, and blindness.

Overall, men and women are just about equally likely to develop high blood pressure over their lifetimes but as they age, women are more likely.  72% of men and 80% of women will develop high blood pressure if they live to be 75 or older.   In addition to age, race and ethnicity are risk factors.  African Americans develop high blood pressure more frequently and at an earlier age than whites or Hispanics.  The CDC states that uncontrolled high blood pressure among African American men aged 20 and older is 59.7%; compared to 47% of white in the same age category.  Uncontrolled hypertension among African American women is 47.3% compared to 43.2% for white women.  

Factors such as age, race, and ethnicity cannot be controlled. Lifestyle factors, however, can be controlled.  Healthy habits can lower your BP and significantly lower your risk for disease.  The National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following healthy habits:

  • See your doctor on a regular basis.  If you have high blood pressure, talk with your doctor about a BP goal and the game plan for reaching it.

  • Take your medications daily. If you are on a BP medication, take it exactly as prescribed.  If it not working, discuss other medication and timing options.

  • Quit smoking.  (or if you don’t smoke, don’t start)

  • Follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet – this is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat daily, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts.  It is low in sodium, added sugars, and fats.

  • Move everyday – 20-30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily will lower your blood pressure.  For example, this could be a good walk, pulling weeds in the garden, cleaning your house…the key is move, don’t sit.  Research shows that even several shorter (1-2 minute) brisk walks throughout the day are beneficial.

  • Manage stress.   Reduce stress through exercise, time with family or friends, meditation or quiet time, hobbies, and time/activity management (saying no when necessary).  

  • Limit alcohol consumption – no more than one drink each day for women and two for men.

For more information about high blood pressure, go to: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/HighBloodPressure/.  To learn how to lower your blood pressure with the DASH diet, go to: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/dash_brief.pdf.  This is an excellent resource that gives you step by step instructions to help you gradually change your diet.  

Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville.  If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at lwichtowski@noyeshealth.org or 585-335-4327.  

Chances are you or someone you know has high blood pressure, medically known as hypertension.  It is one of the most common medical conditions in the world.  According to the CDC, about 1 of 3 U.S. adults – 67 million people – has high blood pressure.  It was the primary or contributing cause to more than 360,000 American deaths in 2010; that is approximately 1,000 deaths per day.  Understanding your BP numbers, knowing your risk level, and implementing healthy habits are all key factors to lowering blood pressure.

High blood pressure is the force of blood on walls of your blood vessels.  While it is perfectly normal for your blood pressure to fluctuate throughout the day, it is unhealthy for it to be consistently high.  Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).  There are two numbers associated with BP, systolic and diastolic.  Systolic pressure (the top number)   is the force on the blood vessel walls when the heart beats and pumps blood out of the heart.  Diastolic pressure (the bottom number) is the force that occurs when the heart relaxes between beats.   According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, high blood pressure measures higher than 140/90 mmHg, pre-hypertension between 120/80 and 139/89 and normal 120/80 or less.  When a person has high blood pressure, his heart has to work too hard, the walls of the arteries harden, and it can cause the brain to hemorrhage or kidneys to fail.  Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart and kidney disease, stroke, and blindness.

Overall, men and women are just about equally likely to develop high blood pressure over their lifetimes but as they age, women are more likely.  72% of men and 80% of women will develop high blood pressure if they live to be 75 or older.   In addition to age, race and ethnicity are risk factors.  African Americans develop high blood pressure more frequently and at an earlier age than whites or Hispanics.  The CDC states that uncontrolled high blood pressure among African American men aged 20 and older is 59.7%; compared to 47% of white in the same age category.  Uncontrolled hypertension among African American women is 47.3% compared to 43.2% for white women.  

Factors such as age, race, and ethnicity cannot be controlled. Lifestyle factors, however, can be controlled.  Healthy habits can lower your BP and significantly lower your risk for disease.  The National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following healthy habits:

See your doctor on a regular basis.  If you have high blood pressure, talk with your doctor about a BP goal and the game plan for reaching it.

Take your medications daily. If you are on a BP medication, take it exactly as prescribed.  If it not working, discuss other medication and timing options.

Quit smoking.  (or if you don’t smoke, don’t start)

Follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet – this is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat daily, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts.  It is low in sodium, added sugars, and fats.

Move everyday – 20-30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily will lower your blood pressure.  For example, this could be a good walk, pulling weeds in the garden, cleaning your house…the key is move, don’t sit.  Research shows that even several shorter (1-2 minute) brisk walks throughout the day are beneficial.

Manage stress.   Reduce stress through exercise, time with family or friends, meditation or quiet time, hobbies, and time/activity management (saying no when necessary).  

Limit alcohol consumption – no more than one drink each day for women and two for men.

For more information about high blood pressure, go to: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/HighBloodPressure/.  To learn how to lower your blood pressure with the DASH diet, go to: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/dash_brief.pdf.  This is an excellent resource that gives you step by step instructions to help you gradually change your diet.  

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