Did you know that nearly 68 million people have high blood pressure in the U.S.? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, raises the risk for heart disease and stroke, the first and third leading causes of death. Moreover, it can contribute to many other health problems that can impact your overall quality of life. May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month and now is the time to start taking control of your numbers. No matter what your age or your lifestyle, high blood pressure is something to watch for.
Know the Basics
Knowledge is power and when it comes to living a healthier life, knowing what to look for in your blood pressure is a big step. Here’s what you need to know:
Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood in your circulatory system. Why is it important? Well, for starters, it relates directly to the force and rate of the heartbeat. The higher your blood pressure, the harder the heart has to work in order to pump blood normally. In addition to the rate and force of the heartbeat, blood pressure also has a lot do with the diameter and elasticity of your arterial walls. Narrowed arteries also mean more work for your heart, which an put unnecessary and sometimes dangerous strain on your body.
Now, blood pressure is written as two numbers. The first number is your systolic pressure, or the pressure when the heart beats. The second number is your diastolic pressure, or the pressure when the heart rests between beats. Most doctors use this classification system for blood pressure to determine what levels are healthy:
Normal Blood Pressure: Systolic is less than 120 mmHg and diastolic is less than 80 mmHg. A good number that most people regard as normal is 120/80.
Prehypertention: Slightly higher blood pressure is called prehypertension and that’s typically with a systolic pressure of 120-139 mmHg and a diastolic of 80-89 mmHg.
High blood pressure: Systolic pressure of 140 mmHg or higher and diastolic pressure of 90 mmHg or higher.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
While high blood pressure may affect millions of people, in many cases, it does silently. Most people who have high blood pressure or prehypertension don’t know about it. The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked. Your doctor or another qualified health professional should check your blood pressure at least once every two years, or more often if you’re at risk. Some risk factors for high blood pressure include: age (55 in women, 45 in men), ethnicity (African Americans have higher risk), obesity, gender, unhealthy lifestyle, smoking, and family history.
Treating High Blood Pressure
In most cases, high blood pressure can be treated with a healthy lifestyle and medication. If you’re at risk for high blood pressure, it’s important to make the following lifestyle changes:
- Exercise regularly. Try taking a 10-minute brisk walk three times per day, 5 days per week.
- Eat well. A diet rich in vegetables and fruit is a must!
- Cut back on alcohol and sodium. Low sodium diets are an important part of managing blood pressure.
- If you are on medication, take as directed.
- Quit smoking.
- Maintain a healthy body weight as directed by your doctor.
- Monitor your blood pressure regularly with the help of a blood pressure monitor or blood pressure machine. HeartRateMonitorsUSA.com carries a variety of blood pressure machines to help you stay alert when it comes to your numbers.
Everyone is different and will require different treatment options. If you have additional questions about high blood pressure, talk to your doctor or another qualified health professional.