Sometimes I feel like I am beating a dead horse when it comes to discussing hypertension. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 75 million American adults (29%) have high blood pressure. That is 1 in every 3 American adults. Hypertension greatly increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, the first and third leading causes of death in the United States. In November 2017 the American Journal of Cardiology along with the American Heart Association updates blood pressure recommendations. People with a reading of 130/80 are now classified as having high blood pressure. This is down from 140/90.
May is National High Blood Pressure Month. While you can’t always control whether you get high blood pressure, there are lifestyle habits you can develop to help prevent and reduce your risk of high blood pressure related health problems in the future. Your age, family history, sex, and ethnicity are among the hypertension risk factors that are out of your control. When it comes to preventing or treating hypertension, it is important to focus on the risk factors you can change. The CDC highlights five ways to help prevent or treat hypertension.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Weight control is critical when it comes to hypertension. Being overweight can make you two to six times more likely to develop high blood pressure than if you are at your desirable weight. If you are carrying extra weight, losing even as little as 10 pounds can help prevent high blood pressure.
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet. Limit salt intake. Eating too much sodium can cause high blood pressure and damage arteries. You should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Fresh produce has a low calorie density and high nutrient content. Choose whole grains and consume healthy proteins. Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water. Eat foods containing potassium such as; potatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, kidney beans, bananas, avocadoes, fish and milk. Avoid sugar.
- Limit alcohol consumption. For women, that means no more than one drink a day and for men, no more than two.
- Exercise regularly. People who are physically active have a 20% to 50% lower risk of getting high blood pressure than people who are not active. American College of Sports Medicine recommends 90 to 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous intensity, aerobic and resistance exercise training. The Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling every week. Get moving!
- No smoking. Cigarette smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke. If you do not smoke, do not start! If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease.
Check your blood pressure regularly, either at your doctor’s office or at home. High blood pressure often has no symptoms. It is the silent killer. Take control of your lifestyle habits. You decide where you can make changes to help prevent hypertension and other chronic diseases or help control it.