The Centers for Disease Control estimates that in the United States, about a third of adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Many are unaware that they have it.
Still another third may have pre-hypertension, which means their blood pressure is higher than normal but not quite high enough to be considered hypertension. If their blood pressure is left uncontrolled, many of those with pre-hypertension will eventually develop hypertension.
Although there is no cure for hypertension, it can usually be managed by leading a healthy lifestyle and by taking prescription medications. Lawrence Memorial Hospital is offering a “Lifestyle Changes to Help Prevent and Assist in Managing Hypertension” program to share information with the community. There will be two sessions: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9, at the LMH main campus or 9:30 to 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 19, at the LMH Performance and Wellness Center at the Sports Pavilion Lawrence.
Advance registration is required for the program at the Performance and Wellness Center because of space limitations. There is a $5 fee for the program. Enroll at www.lmh.org/events or call LMH Connect Care at 785-505-5800.
Blood pressure is the force of blood against the artery walls as it circulates through the body. The top number of a blood pressure reading, known as systolic pressure, is the pressure measurement when the heart is beating and the lower number, known as diastolic pressure, is the pressure when the heart is resting.
The American Heart Association (AHA) notes that a normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. A systolic reading between 120 to 139 or a diastolic reading between 80 and 89 may indicate pre-hypertension. A systolic reading of 140 or greater and/or a diastolic reading of 90 or higher may indicate hypertension. Talk with your health care provider about what your target blood pressure numbers should be for your age and medical history.
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Over time if the blood flow force is high enough, damage to artery walls may occur. Damage to the heart coronary arteries can lead to heart attack, heart failure, aortic dissection and atherosclerosis (excess plaque deposits harden and block the arteries). Hypertension can also damage the arteries to the brain, potentially causing a stroke or memory loss.
In addition, uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in damage to the kidneys, lungs and eyes, as well as lead to erectile dysfunction and peripheral artery disease.
Often known as the “silent killer,” high blood pressure usually does not cause any symptoms. The only way to know you have it is to have your blood pressure measured. One elevated blood pressure reading does not necessarily mean that you have hypertension, but it does mean that you need to monitor your blood pressure more frequently and alert your health care provider.
There are several risk factors for hypertension. Some such as advancing age, race, gender and a family history of hypertension are ones that you cannot alter. Other risk factors including being overweight, smoking, being physically inactive, eating an unhealthy diet or having too high a blood sugar or cholesterol levels are risk factors that you can work at changing.
It is important to follow your health care provider’s recommendations regarding treatment. Always tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are taking any over-the-counter medications or supplements, as some of these can affect blood pressure. If you have been prescribed medication to control your blood pressure, always take as recommended. Never quit taking any prescribed blood pressure medication without consulting your health care provider first.
5 health tips to help manage high blood pressure
1. Eat a healthy diet. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is one that is rich in vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, lean protein, and whole grains. Limiting saturated fats such as in meats or high fat dairy can also help. Focus on decreasing the sodium (salt) and added sugars in your diet. Most processed foods such as canned or packaged convenience food products are high in added sodium or sugar. The AHA recommends that those who have hypertension aim to keep their daily sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg.
Many fruits and vegetables contain potassium, which is thought to be helpful in lessening the harmful effects of too much salt.
2. Be physically active. Try to get a minimum of 150 minutes a week (more is better) of physical activity, such as walking, cycling, swimming or yoga.
3. Stop smoking and using tobacco products. Smoking can damage the walls of the arteries, potentially leading to a heart attack or stroke. Know that secondhand smoke exposure can also do the same.
4. Work on losing weight. Even losing a small amount of weight — 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight — can significantly improve blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol readings.
5. Limit alcohol intake. Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure. Women should have no more than one drink a day and men no more than two.
For more information and additional suggestions to prevent or manage high blood pressure, go to heart.org or nhlbi.nih.gov.
— Aynsley Anderson Sosinski, MA, RN, is Community Education Coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. She is a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach. She can be reached at email@example.com.