One in four American adults suffers from high blood pressure (also known as hypertension). Many people go untreated because they don’t understand the danger high blood pressure poses and the ease with which it can be controlled.
Blood pressure is the force of the blood on the arterial walls. A blood pressure reading is made up of two numbers, the systolic pressure (top number) and the diastolic pressure (bottom number). Systolic pressure is recorded as the heart beats, while diastolic is recorded when the heart relaxes. A normal blood pressure is usually less than or equal to 120/80, while high blood pressure is considered greater than or equal to 140/90. The in-between range is often referred to as “prehypertension.” The top (systolic) and bottom (diastolic) numbers do not both have to be high in order for you to have high blood pressure. The most common form of high blood pressure is one in which only the systolic pressure is higher than normal.
High blood pressure makes your heart work harder. This puts you at risk of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have regular checkups with your doctor. He or she can prescribe the proper course of action to control or prevent the condition.
Do you know your blood pressure? If not, taking this simple test could help save your life and the life of your child. A new study has found that high blood pressure is becoming an alarmingly common childhood phenomenon. High blood pressure is especially dangerous because you can’t see or feel it. But irreversible damage is being done to your cardiovascular system. This increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and other serious consequences.
Many pharmacies offer free blood pressure checks. Or ask your doctor for a reading next time you go for a checkup. If your systolic pressure (the first number in the reading) is over 120, or the diastolic pressure (the second number) is over 80, see your doctor to develop a plan for getting it under control. A healthy diet and regular exercise can minimize the risks associated with high blood pressure.
Here are some lifestyle changes that can improve your blood pressure:
1. Develop a healthy diet plan. A diet that is low in saturated fat and high in whole grains and vegetables has been shown to both reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and lower already elevated blood pressure.
2. Maintain a healthy weight. Blood pressure rises as body weight increases, so losing even 10 pounds through regular exercise and a controlled diet can lower blood pressure.
3. Reduce sodium if your doctor recommends it. Sodium reduction has been shown to lower blood pressure in some patients.
4. Stop smoking. Smoking doesn’t cause high blood pressure, but it can increase your risk of developing heart disease whether you have high blood pressure or not.
5. Eliminate alcohol from your lifestyle. Excessive drinking can increase blood pressure.