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Knowing your blood pressure readings could save your life

June 13, 2024 Posted in: Leadership
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About 1 in 3 adults with high blood pressure in the United States don’t even know they have it. That means that approximately 30% of people aren’t doing anything to treat it and keep it under control. Most of the time, they simply aren’t aware because high blood pressure or hypertension has no obvious symptoms. And when symptoms are present, they’re often misunderstood. 

 

The key is to understand if your blood pressure readings fall within a healthy category and what to do to lower your risk. Here are three must-know facts about hypertension:

Understanding your blood pressure readings can save your life.

Just as you can control what you eat and how often you exercise, you can also be on top of your blood pressure readings. First, knowing what your numbers mean and what’s considered normal is important since high blood pressure levels are a significant risk factor for heart disease. Blood pressure is measured in two numbers: systolic (the first number) and diastolic (the second number). In general, a normal blood pressure reading is less than 140 over 90 mm Hg. Anything above is considered elevated. 

If you have hypertension or other chronic conditions, you should visit your primary care provider at least once a year. At your next visit, your physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant will check your vital signs, including your blood pressure. If you’re currently taking medication for high blood pressure, keeping a running log of blood pressure readings that you can bring to your appointment is wise. In doing so, you will help your provider determine how well treatment is working. If you don’t have a blood pressure monitor at home, consider buying one from your local pharmacy or online retailer. Before checking your blood pressure, make sure you are in a comfortable resting position. Avoid strenuous activity and caffeine an hour before. Measure and record your blood pressure in the morning before eating or taking medications and again in the evening. 

There’s no cure for high blood pressure, but there is a great deal you can do to keep it under control.

High blood pressure can sneak up on you and lead to other problems if left untreated. Fortunately, making a few lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk and keep your blood pressure within a healthy range. A good place to start is to make changes to your diet. The American Heart Association recommends eating less salt and sodium. Avoid cooking with salt; instead, use herbs or spices to add flavor to your meals. Adding more potassium to your diet can blunt the effects of sodium, which can help control your blood pressure. Bananas, avocados, fish, and low-fat dairy products are excellent sources of potassium.

Regular exercise is another way to lower your risk. What’s more, staying active isn’t just good for managing high blood pressure. It helps you manage your weight, makes your heart stronger, and helps relieve stress. Try exercising for 150 minutes a week, which is approximately 20 minutes a day. You can try walking, light jogging, biking, and swimming. Other activities that can help lower your risk include yoga and meditation. This can help you slow down, focus on the present, and enjoy the little things. It can also help control your breathing and stress levels.

Poor sleep and smoking are also linked to high blood pressure. If you’re a smoker, it’s time to put down your cigarettes and get help to quit for good. If you’re not getting enough sleep or you tend to toss and turn at night, your blood pressure may stay higher for longer. On the other hand, when you sleep well, and your body rests, your blood pressure goes down. If you’re a night owl or have issues falling or staying asleep, try making a few changes to your bedtime routine. Try relaxing before bed, avoiding daytime naps, and making your bedroom dark and cozy. Talk to your doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner if you need help quitting smoking or have trouble sleeping at night. 

High blood pressure can cause many health problems when left untreated.

Hypertension opens the door for dietary fats to sit in your arteries and restrict blood flow, potentially leading to increased blood pressure, blockages, and stroke. Hypertension also causes your heart to work harder. The increased pressure in your blood vessels over time forces your heart to pump harder and more frequently than normal. This can increase your likelihood of heart failure, arrhythmias, and heart attack. 

The takeaway

Hypertension can lead to many health problems, including heart disease and stroke. But regular blood pressure checks and lifestyle changes can help you control your hypertension. Your doctor may also prescribe medication. If you have hypertension or a history of heart disease and stroke, visit your primary care provider at least once a year and practice healthy living habits. Talk to your physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant if you need help quitting smoking or making other lifestyle changes. 

 

Sources:

A Primer on Potassium | American Heart Association

5 Surprising Facts About High Blood Pressure | cdc.gov

Getting Active to Control High Blood Pressure | American Heart Association

A Primer on Potassium | American Heart Association

5 Surprising Facts About High Blood Pressure | cdc.gov

Why High Blood Pressure is a "Silent Killer" | American Heart Association

Blood Pressure Matters | NIH News in Health

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