Feature Articles: Health
May is High Blood Pressure Education Month
Christeena Haynes, MS, RD, LD; With contributions from Melissa Bess, former Nutrition and Health Education Specialists, University of Missouri Extension
In the U.S., approximately one in three adults has high blood pressure, also called hypertension. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack and stroke, which are two of the leading causes of death in the U.S. It is known as the “silent killer” because many people do not even know they have it. For this reason, it is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly.
Blood pressure is the force against the arteries when the heart pumps blood through the body. It is written as a ratio. The top number (systolic) shows the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. The bottom number (diastolic) is the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg. Prehypertension is 120-139/80-89 mm Hg. High blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or higher.
The good news about hypertension is that it can be preventable. There are also ways you can control it if you have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Follow these tips to maintain a normal blood pressure.
- Eat a healthy diet. Increase consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Consume lean protein and fish. Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy. Eat foods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Limit sodium. Reduce daily intake to less than 2,300 mg/day or less than 1,500 mg/day for those 51 years and older, those of any age who are African American or those who have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
- Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Exercise regularly. Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Start where you can and increase slowly.
- Stop smoking. Smoking damages blood vessels and accelerates hardening of the arteries.
- Limit alcohol intake. If you drink, consume only moderate amounts (one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men). Too much alcohol increases blood pressure.
- Manage stress.
- Take your blood pressure medication as directed if you have already been diagnosed.
There are also uncontrollable risk factors that could lead to hypertension such as race (African Americans have a greater risk), heredity and age (the older you are the greater chance for developing hypertension). However, following the tips above (the controllable risk factors) can still reduce or postpone your chances of getting hypertension, or help you control it.
Have your blood pressure checked regularly and prevent hypertension with a healthy lifestyle!
American Heart Association. Understanding blood pressure readings. Retrieved January 31, 2013 from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/Understanding-Blood-Pressure-Readings_UCM_301764_Article.jsp
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to prevent high blood pressure. Retrieved January 31, 2013 from http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/what_you_can_do.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May is high blood pressure education month. Retrieved January 31, 2013 from http://www.cdc.gov/Features/HighBloodPressure/
Last update: Tuesday, May 10, 2016