Q: Is it true that May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month?
A: Yes. The 2006 theme is "Mission Possible: Prevent and Control High Blood Pressure." It is estimated that one in every four American adults has high blood pressure. High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard and contributes to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). It increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, which are the first- and third-leading causes of death among Americans. High blood pressure also can result in other conditions, such as congestive heart failure, kidney disease and blindness. Once high blood pressure develops, it usually lasts a lifetime. Regardless of race, age or gender, anyone can develop high blood pressure.
Q: What is high blood pressure and prehypertension?
A: Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries. Blood pressure rises and falls during the day. When blood pressure stays elevated over time, it is called high blood pressure. The medical term for high blood pressure is hypertension. Normal blood pressure is less than 120 mmHg systolic and less than 80 mmHg diastolic. A blood pressure level of 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered high. If your blood pressure is between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg, then you have prehypertension. This means that you don't have high blood pressure now but are likely to develop it in the future.
Q: What is systolic blood pressure?
A: Systolic pressure is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart beats. It is shown as the top number in a blood pressure reading. High blood pressure is 140 and higher for systolic pressure. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, diastolic pressure does not need to be high for you to have high blood pressure. When that happens, the condition is called "isolated systolic hypertension," or ISH.
Q: Is isolated systolic high blood pressure common?
A: Yes. It is the most common form of high blood pressure for older Americans. For most Americans, systolic blood pressure increases with age, while diastolic increases until about age 55 and then declines. About 65 percent of hypertensives over age 60 have ISH. You may have ISH and feel fine. As with other types of high blood pressure, ISH often causes no symptoms.
Q: Is isolated systolic high blood pressure dangerous?
A: Any form of high blood pressure is dangerous if not properly treated. Both numbers in a blood pressure test are important, but for some, the systolic is especially meaningful. That's because for those persons middle aged and older, systolic pressure gives a better diagnosis of high blood pressure. If left uncontrolled, high systolic pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, congestive heart failure, kidney damage, blindness or other conditions. While it cannot be cured once it has developed, ISH can be controlled.
Q: What is diastolic blood pressure?
A: Diastolic pressure is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart relaxes between beats. It's shown as the bottom number in a blood pressure reading. The diastolic blood pressure has been and remains, especially for younger people, an important hypertension number. The higher the diastolic blood pressure, the greater the risk for heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. As people become older, the diastolic pressure will begin to decrease and the systolic blood pressure begins to rise and becomes more important. Your physician will use both the systolic and the diastolic blood pressure to determine your blood pressure category and appropriate prevention and treatment activities.
Q: So, if I am at risk for developing high blood pressure, can a change in my diet help?
A: Research has shown that following a healthy eating plan can both reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and lower an already elevated blood pressure. For an overall eating plan, consider the DASH eating plan. "DASH" stands for "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension," a clinical study that tested the effects of nutrients in food on blood pressure. Study results indicated that elevated blood pressures were reduced by an eating plan that emphasizes fruits, vegetables and lowfat dairy foods and is low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol. The DASH eating plan includes whole grains, poultry, fis, and nuts and has reduced amounts of fats, red meats, sweets and sugared beverages.
A second clinical study, called "DASH-Sodium," looked at the effect of a reduced dietary sodium intake on blood pressure as people followed either the DASH eating plan or a typical American diet. Results showed that reducing dietary sodium lowered blood pressure for both the DASH eating plan and the typical American diet. The biggest blood pressure-lowering benefits were for those eating the DASH eating plan at the lowest sodium level (1,500 milligrams per day).
The DASH-Sodium study shows the importance of lowering sodium intake whatever your diet. But for a true winning combination, follow the DASH eating plan and lower your intake of salt and sodium.
For more information about obtaining a copy of the 24-page "Facts About the DASH Eating Plan," contact me at 843-7058 or search www.nhlbi.nih.gov.
Here is one of the many recipes offered through the DASH Eating Plan Web site:
1/2 pound cooked lasagna noodles
(in unsalted water)
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, part-skim, grated
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese, fat free
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups zucchini, raw, sliced
2 1/2 cups tomato sauce, no salt added
2 teaspoons basil, dried
2 teaspoons oregano, dried
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. In a small bowl, combine 1/8 cup mozzarella and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese with all of the cottage cheese. Mix well and set aside. Combine tomato sauce with remaining ingredients. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Add a third of the noodles in a single layer. Spread half of the cottage cheese mixture on top. Add a layer of zucchini. Repeat layering. Add a thin coating of sauce. Top with noodles, sauce and reserved cheese mixture. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake 30 to 40 minutes. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Makes 6 servings.
- Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.