Take Charge of Your Blood Pressure
Lifestyle changes can make the difference
By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
Reviewed By Charlotte E. Grayson, MD
They call high blood pressure "the silent killer" because so many people are walking around with it and don't even know it. Government statistics indicate that roughly 29% (or about one in three) American adults have high blood pressure, compared with 25% in the early 1990s.
With the rising rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes, it comes as no surprise that higher rates of high blood pressure would follow. It doesn't help that one out of four of us consumes too much salt, according to guidelines from the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine.
What Are the Risks?
When your blood pressure is high, you're at higher risk for heart disease, kidney failure, stroke, and other serious conditions. Both men and women are affected by high blood pressure.
So what is considered high? New guidelines say that systolic numbers (that's the top number in your blood pressure reading) above 140 and diastolic numbers (the bottom number) above 90 are considered high. "Normal" is a systolic number of 120 or below and diastolic of 80 or below.
Rates falling somewhere between high and normal have been coined "prehypertension" by the National Institutes of Health, to help alert doctors to those who are at risk for developing the disease.
Regardless of where your numbers fall, blood pressure evaluation and control should be managed by your doctor.
In 2002 and 2003, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute issued two reports that serve as national guidelines for the treatment and prevention of high blood pressure. Both suggest many lifestyle adjustments that can help prevent and treat hypertension. Experts agree that the first line of defense to preventing or controlling high blood pressure is a healthier (but realistic) lifestyle.
Follow these recommendations to help take charge of your blood pressure, with or without the help of medication:
Blood pressure rises with age, so as we get older it becomes increasingly important to know our blood pressure numbers and what we can do to keep ourselves in the "normal" range.
It is as easy as becoming a sleuth for sodium, tweaking your eating plan to enjoy more DASH kinds of foods, and getting regular physical activity. Put yourself in charge of your blood pressure today.
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