May is recognized as High Blood Pressure Education Month, so this month we would like to do just that! High blood pressure, or hypertension, is often referred to as the “silent killer” because it most often presents without any signs or symptoms. Those diagnosed with hypertension are at increased risk for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death for people in the United States. Let’s start with some quick numbers.
-According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 68 million people, or 1 in 3 adults, have high blood pressure.
-1 of 3 adults with high blood pressure do not get treatment
-1 of 2 adults with high blood pressure do not have it under control.
What exactly is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the pressure of blood pushing against the artery walls and is determined by both the amount of blood your heart pumps and the resistance to this blood flow in your arteries. Blood pressure is the result of two different forces: systolic and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure refers to the force as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries and diastolic pressure refers to the pressure as the heart rests in between beats.
How does hypertension develop?
For most people, hypertension typically develops over years without an identifiable cause. In some cases, people have hypertension caused by a health condition such as kidney problems, sleep apnea, certain medications or underlying thyroid issues.
What is considered normal and when should I be concerned?
In 2017, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association published revised definitions of and guidelines for hypertension management.
Some variation in blood pressure throughout the day is normal, especially as a response to small changes in daily life like stress, exercise, and sleep quality. Prolonged elevations in blood pressure, however, can cause health problems and damage to your heart as it works harder to deliver blood to the rest of the body. Over time, elevated blood pressure can also cause direct damage to the artery walls which can ultimately lead to narrowing, increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke. Other complications may include damage to the kidneys, aneurysms and vision loss to name a few.
What can I do to prevent or treat hypertension?
-If you are prescribed medications, please take them as directed by your provider.
-It is very important to know your numbers!
-Be sure to have your blood pressure checked regularly given that most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms at all. Although this is always done at your annual physical, you may require more frequent checks.
If you have a blood pressure monitor at home, here are some tips to make sure you are obtaining an accurate reading: https://www.heart.org/-/media/files/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/how_to_measure_your_blood_pressure_letter_size.pdf?la=en&hash=58005C0F0AC9C9AACAA3089070B54E0F74695E95
In addition, these lifestyle factors that can also help to prevent and treat hypertension:
–Eat a well-balanced diet that is full of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes. If you have hypertension, you want to be aware of how much sodium you consume daily. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 2,300mg (1 teaspoon) daily and ideally less than 1500mg of sodium per day for those with hypertension. There are specific foods that have been identified to combat hypertension, particularly nitrate-rich vegetables in addition to whole foods that are rich in potassium, magnesium, vitamin C.
For a full list, check out our tip sheet for foods to lower high blood pressure (http://synergyprivatehealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/90076_Synergy_FoodsLowerBP_final.pdf).
Also check out our new beet and berry smoothie recipe!
–Get regular physical activity. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity per week. This includes brisk walks, gardening, water aerobics and dancing! Even if you don’t meet this recommendation, any movement is better than none.
–Keep yourself at a healthy weight as being overweight or obese increases your risk for hypertension and complications. A normal body weight is defined by a BMI of 18.5-24.9. You can calculate yours here! https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm
–Quit smoking if you are a smoker.
-Consume alcohol in moderation. If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation (no more than 2 5-ounce drinks per day for men and no more than 1 5-ounce drink for women).
–Manage your stress by practicing medication or whatever tools work best for you.