Think you're not at risk? Check out these numbers. Chances are, you or someone you know has been affected by high blood pressure.
|70 million||Americans affected by high blood pressure|
|28 %||Americans over age 18 with pre-hypertension|
|336,353||Deaths related to high blood pressure among Americans in 2007|
|46 million||Doctor's office visits for hypertension|
May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month and a perfect chance to take the time to get yours checked and under control. Feeling pressured is a fact of life, but too much can take a toll on your health without warning. High blood pressure can be particularly troublesome, as often it shows no signs or symptoms. It also can carry serious health risks if left untreated.
Fortunately, getting checked is simple, non-invasive and can be done in a number of settings. You can have your blood pressure checked by a healthcare professional in a clinic or at a health fair. These are typically the most reliable and accurate readings, however, many retail pharmacies have easy-to-use machines that can give you a blood pressure measurement in a matter of minutes. You can also purchase an at-home blood pressure monitor and check yours on a regular basis. While these last two methods are very convenient and affordable, they should not replace your annual wellness visit with a healthcare provider such as a physician or nurse practitioner.
What you need to know
Blood pressure is measured in two numbers, systolic (top) and diastolic (bottom). The systolic measurement is recorded as the heart pumps blood and the diastolic measurement is recorded when your heart is at rest. Ideally, your blood pressure reading should be less than 120/80. The chart below can help you see how you measure up.
|Healthy blood pressure||less than 120 / 80|
|Pre-hypertension||120-139 / 80-89|
|High blood pressure||over 140 / 90|
High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects 1 in 3 Americans, including children and teens. While there are little or no symptoms, high blood pressure can be very dangerous if left untreated. Prolonged hypertension can greatly increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure and kidney disease.
What you can do
High blood pressure can often be prevented and managed without taking medication. Simple lifestyle changes can be most effective at lowering your blood pressure and keeping it under control. These lifestyle habits include:
- 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week, like walking
- Eating a healthy diet, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein
- Quitting tobacco
- Limiting alcohol consumption (no more than 2 drinks per day for men and no more than 1 for women)
- Limiting excess sodium in your diet (fast food, snack foods, canned soups and processed foods)
- Establishing and/or maintaining a healthy weight. You should aim for a Body Mass Index of 18.5-24.9
- Having your blood pressure checked regularly