Your Blood Pressure: A Personal Priority

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LifeSpan BPM1000i Blood Pressure Monitor

Have you had your blood pressure reading taken lately? If not, you should. Blood pressure is an important health metric. Everyone should know their resting blood pressure as high blood pressure is one of the chronic diseases prevalent today and known as the “Silent Killer.” Blood pressure is the measure of the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. The heart pumps blood into the arteries (blood vessels), which carry the blood throughout the body. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood to the body and contributes to hardening of the arteries and to the development of heart failure. Many people do not know they have high blood pressure and that is why the label “Silent Killer.”

One in 3 adults in this country has high blood pressure and it affects over 78 million people. Only about half of these adults have their blood pressure under control. According to Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, “We are making progress, but not nearly fast enough. Control is now increasing at about 1 percent per year. We need to ramp that up to 5 percent per year. High blood pressure control has to be a priority for every patient at every [physician office] visit.”

The exact causes of high blood pressure are unknown, but several factors and conditions may play a role in its development. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Too much alcohol consumption (more than 1 to 2 drinks per day)
  • Stress
  • Older age
  • Genetics
  • Family history of high blood pressure

The importance of diet and exercise cannot be overstated. Even if your blood pressure is normal, you should consider making lifestyle modifications in these areas to prevent the future development of high blood pressure and improve your heart health.

Diet / Nutrition

Try the DASH diet. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is a lifelong approach to healthy eating that is designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension). The DASH diet encourages the reduction of sodium in the diet and promotes eating a variety of foods rich in nutrients such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. There are two versions of the DASH diet and both include eating an abundance of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. The DASH diet also includes some fish, poultry, and legumes. Red meat, sweets, and fats can be consumed in small amounts.

Remember, healthy eating is all about moderation and not deprivation. What is important is that, on average, a person eats a variety of healthy foods to keep the diet nutritious and to avoid boredom or extremes. The DASH diet achieves both.

Exercise / Physical Activity

Exercise is a drug-free, lifestyle approach to treating and lowering blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends a person gets at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a combination of both each week. The goal is to achieve at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week. If a person cannot set aside that much time at once, shorter bursts of activity count too. Breaking up the workout into three 10-minute sessions of aerobic exercise will provide the same benefit as one 30-minute session.

Summary

Have your blood pressure reading taken today if you haven’t done so recently. Talk with your doctor about the results and continue to monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis whether the reading was normal or not. New blood pressure guidelines are published from time to time so it is important to be aware of the newest protocols and discuss your individual situation with healthcare professionals.

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