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Hypertension and Your Health

Check your blood pressure regularly to monitor hypertension.

Check your blood pressure regularly to monitor hypertension.

For World Health Day on April 7, the World Health Organization (WHO) chose to highlight high blood pressure as a major public health concern.  This chronic disease is responsible for increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of death in the United States.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 68 million (1 in 3 adults) in the United States have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.  Because many people show no signs or symptoms of the disease, hypertension is known as a “silent killer” because people often don’t realize they have it.

Having your blood pressure checked regularly is the only way to know if you have a problem. Checking your blood pressure is easy. Your doctor will do this during regular visits, or you can find an automatic blood pressure machine at most pharmacies and major grocery stores.  Do you know what your numbers should look like?

Blood Pressure Levels

Normal

Systolic: less than 120 mmHg
Diastolic: less than 80 mmHg

At risk (pre-hypertension)

Systolic: 120–139 mmHg
Diastolic: 80–89 mmHg

High

Systolic: 140 mmHg or higher
Diastolic: 90 mmHg or higher

What Can You Do?

Many factors can influence your blood pressure, which is defined as the force of blood against your artery walls during circulation.  Although hypertension risk can be hereditary and tends to increase as we get older, many other factors can be controlled to reduce your risk of developing the disease.  The CDC identifies the use of tobacco or alcohol, as well as being overweight, not getting enough daily physical activity, and excessive dietary sodium as controllable risk-factors. 

  • Take action to manage your weight by reducing excess calories, fat, and sugar.
  • Increase your physical activity everyday, even if it is just walking 30 minutes a day.
  • If you smoke, stop now. 
  • If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation.
  • Reduce your sodium intake.

Most sodium in the American diet comes from salt added during food processing.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010) recommends reducing daily sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) for adults, and to no more than 1,500 mg for persons over the age of 51, African Americans, or those with diabetes or chronic kidney disease.  Americans can reduce their sodium consumption in several ways:

  • Read the Nutrition Facts label for the sodium content of purchased products and look for lower sodium options.
  • Consume more fresh foods and fewer processed foods, such as canned soups, cured meats, condiments, and prepackaged meals.
  • Eat more home-prepared meals, where you have more control over added salt.  Don’t use seasonings that contain sodium.
  • When dining out, ask that salt not be added or choose lower-sodium options, if available.

Don’t wait.  Check your blood pressure today and talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your risk for developing chronic hypertension.  For more information about lifestyle changes and hypertension, click here.  For information on reading labels and ideas on how to cook with less sodium, click here.

References:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, High Blood Pressure.  http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/index.htm

U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 2010. http://www.dietaryguidelines.gov

Linda B. Bobroff, PhD, RD, LD/N, professor and Extension nutrition specialist; Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; , Nutrition for Health and Fitness: Sodium in Your Diet. Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences; University of Florida, September 2012. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/he696

 

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Author: amymullins – amymullins@ufl.edu

amymullins

Permanent link to this article: http://okaloosa.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/04/10/hypertension-and-your-health/