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3. Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is sometimes known as the silent killer.  It usually has no noticeable warning signs or symptoms until serious problems arise.  Anyone can develop high blood pressure.  In fact, it is estimated that 1 in 3 American adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.  High blood pressure, left untreated, can lead to heart disease, heart attack, blood vessel damage, stroke, kidney disease and damage to the eyes, including blindness.

Risk Factors:

  • Over the age of 55 for men and 65 for women
  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Stress
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Overweight
  • Eating foods high in sodium (too much salt)
  • Race (African Americans have a higher risk than Caucasians)
  • Certain medications

What do the numbers mean?

Systolic blood pressure is the top number, representing the pressure within the arteries when the heart contracts. A systolic pressure below 120 is considered normal.  Prehypertension is between 120 and 139.  At or above 140 is considered hypertension or high blood pressure.

Diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number, representing the pressure within the arteries when the heart relaxes. A diastolic pressure below 80 is considered normal.  Prehypertension is between 80 and 89. At or above 90 is considered hypertension or high blood pressure

Prevention

The good news is, high blood pressure is easily detectable and usually can be controlled.  It is important to know your blood pressure level and to check it regularly. 

The non-medication treatments or preventative measures include:

  • Losing weight
  • Decreasing your sodium (salt) intake
  • Eating a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits and healthy fats
  • Exercise, being active
  • Not using tobacco
  • Drinking alcohol only in moderation

Will I need to take blood pressure medication?

For some people, lifestyle changes are sufficient to control blood pressure.  For others, blood pressure medications may be needed.  It is important for everyone to monitor blood pressure regularly and seek the advice of a physician if the readings are high.

If your physician prescribes medication in addition to lifestyle modifications, follow the recommendations carefully, even if it means taking medication every day for the rest of your life.  By partnering with your healthcare team, you can successfully reach your treatment goals and enjoy the benefits of better health.

For more information about blood pressure, click the link below:

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/High-Blood-Pressure-or-Hypertension_UCM_002020_SubHomePage.jsp