Could YOU Have It – And Not Even Know It?
Next time you’re at lunch with friends, or in a business meeting with coworkers, take a look at the person on your right and left. Chances are, if you don’t have high blood pressure, one of them probably does. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly 1 in 3 US adults has high blood pressure, and nearly 20% of them don’t even know it.
High blood pressure can be a serious health condition for a couple of reasons:
- There are usually no symptoms, so you could have high blood pressure for years and never know it.
- If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to serious complications including stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and kidney failure.
So if there are usually no symptoms, how do you know if you have high blood pressure? The only way to find out is to have your blood pressure checked regularly by your healthcare professional. Your healthcare professional may take several readings over time before deciding whether your blood pressure is high. If your blood pressure readings are consistently 140/90 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) or higher, you have high blood pressure.
The good news is that, once you know that you have it, you can lower and manage it with lifestyle changes and medication if necessary. To reduce high blood pressure:
- Lose weight if necessary.* If you’re overweight, you may be putting too much strain on your heart. Shedding some extra could help lower high blood pressure.
- Eat healthy meals* low in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Focus on eating fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. By eating a low-saturated-fat, low-cholesterol diet, you may decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Limit your salt intake. Salt likes to keep fluid in your body, which tends to increase the burden on your heart. Cut down on the salt you use in cooking and don’t add salt to your food. Spend time looking at food labels and keep a watchful eye on the sodium levels in your foods.
- Be active.* Exercise at least 30 minutes on most or all days of the week. Regular physical activity helps reduce your blood pressure, control your weight, and reduce stress. Start slowly and choose activities you really enjoy!
- Limit alcohol to no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 drinks a day for men. Just 1 drink =4 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer,1 ounce of 100-proof spirits, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits,
- Take medications as directed by your healthcare providers.
Do not stop taking your blood pressure treatment on your own. If you have problems or side effects, call your healthcare professional.
- Know your blood pressure numbers and work with your healthcare professional to determine your personal blood pressure goal. Follow the action steps above, and schedule regular checkups to stay on track.
*Always talk to your healthcare professional before starting any weight loss, dietary, or