High blood pressure, sometimes called hypertension, isn’t nervous tension. People who have high blood pressure don’t have to be tense, compulsive or nervous. In fact, you can have high blood pressure and not know it. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms. That’s why it’s called “THE SILENT KILLER.”
Risk factors you can control
- Obesity – people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
- Eating too much salt –This increases blood pressure in some people.
- Alcohol – Heavy and regular use of alcohol can increase blood pressure dramatically.
- Lack of exercise – An inactive lifestyle makes it easier to become overweight and also increases the chance of high blood pressure.
- Stress – This is often mentioned as a risk factor. However, stress levels are hard to measure, and responses to stress vary from person to person.
- Race – African Americans develop high blood pressure more often than other races, and it tends to occur earlier and be more severe.
- Heredity – A tendency to have high blood pressure runs in families. If your parents or other close blood relatives have it, you’re more likely to develop it.
- Age – In general, the older you get, the greater your chance of developing high blood pressure. It occurs most often in people over age 35. Men seem to develop it most often between age 35 and 50. Women are more likely to develop it after menopause.
Damage to your body
High blood pressure adds to the workload of your heart and arteries. Because your heart must work harder than normal for a long time, it tends to enlarge, having a harder time meeting your body’s demands.
Most treatments for high blood pressure rely on a combination of diet, exercise and medication.
- Diet – Many people with high blood pressure are also overweight. If this is true for you, your doctor or a registered dietitian can help you start or follow a diet. Often when people lose weight, their blood pressure drops automatically. Once a diet has been prescribed for you, stick to it.
- Exercise and Recreation – Don’t be afraid to be active. Physical activity should be part of your daily regimen. It can even help you lose weight or stay at your best weight.
- Medication – Some people need medication to help them reduce high blood pressure. Every person reacts differently to medication. You may need a trial period before your doctor finds the best medicine for you.
How can you help yourself?
Keep your appointments with your doctor. Take prescribed blood pressure medications as directed. Follow medical advice about diet and exercise. High blood pressure is a lifelong disease. It can be controlled, but not cured. By controlling your high blood pressure, you’ll lower your risk of diseases like stroke, heart attack, heart failure and kidney disease. Source: American Heart Association, Fighting Heart Disease and Stroke
Health and Wellness Suggestions about Blood Pressure
Deaths due to high blood pressure on the rise
Troubling news on high blood pressure came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a March data brief, with information showing the overall death rate from high blood pressure has grown 23 percent since 2000. This increase was seen for both genders and most notably among people ages 45 to 64 and those 85 and older.
Since 2000, the death rate from hypertension for men ages 45 to 64 saw a 58 percent increase while the rate for women in the same age range increased almost 37 percent. From 2000 to 2005, those ages 85 and older saw a sharp increase for both men (27.5 percent) and women (23 percent), but from 2005 to 2013 this rate increased much more slowly.
Unfortunately, this report can’t answer why the hypertension-related death rate is rising despite efforts to improve awareness, treatment and control of high blood pressure. Controlling high blood pressure is incredibly important for those diagnosed with hypertension, as it’s a leading cause of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and premature heart-related death.
- Lose extra weight.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat healthy.
- Reduce sodium intake.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Avoid tobacco.
- Cut back on caffeine.
- Reduce stress.
- Monitor blood pressure.
- Get support from family and friends.
Lower systolic blood pressure, lower stroke risk
In Deborah’s last email, we reported on a study that showed high systolic pressure (the top number in your blood pressure reading) may indicate increased heart disease risk in younger adults. A new study, presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in February, further supported the link between systolic blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
The study looked at the blood pressure readings of 1,706 people ages 60 and up (average age 72). After adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity and the use of blood pressure medications, stroke risk was 70 percent higher for those with systolic pressure in the 140 to 149 mm Hg range, compared with those with readings below 140 mm Hg.
The good news is that you can lower your blood pressure with some small but effective changes in your habits:
- First, limit sodium to less than 1,500 mg a day. Choose fresh foods and check food labels for sodium.
- Second, exercise! Aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity.
- Third, change unhealthy habits: Avoid smoking, limit alcohol if you drink and manage stress with relaxation techniques, exercise and learning to say “no.”
Have you thought about how your salt intake may be affecting you? A new study warns high blood pressure isn’t the only concern: Excess salt can damage your blood vessels, heart, kidneys and brain even if you’re “salt-resistant,” meaning that your salt intake doesn’t affect your blood pressure.
Consuming too much salt can lead to reduced function of the endothelium, the inner lining of blood vessels. These endothelial cells work in processes such as blood clotting and immune function. Researchers say that high salt levels can also increase artery stiffness.
A few easy ways that you can begin to decrease your salt intake are to avoid processed foods, use fewer condiments, forgo fast food and pay attention to food labels. Most people should aim for less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
You’ve probably heard Americans eat too much sodium—3,400 mg a day on average, more than twice the recommended amount of 1,500 mg. Maybe your doctor has even suggested you reduce your sodium intake. But is putting down the saltshaker enough? And does it mean resigning yourself to a lifetime of bland food?
The answer to both questions is no. Although not salting your food at the table is one way to reduce your intake, most of the sodium we consume comes from processed, packaged or restaurant foods. That means focusing on these areas is the easiest way to lessen your salt intake:
- If you eat out often, eat one or two additional meals at home each week.
- Look for lower-sodium versions of your favorite snacks.
- Limit cold cuts and cured meats. Or, ask for low-sodium varieties.
- Eat fresh poultry instead of fried, canned or processed.
- Check nutrition labels and note the items you eat that are high in sodium.
Experts say you can change your sodium palate in 21 days. That means once you start lowering your salt intake, your taste buds will adjust, too.