High blood pressure (hypertension) has been called the “silent killer” because it often has no discernable symptoms. Left untreated, however, it can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, loss of vision and other maladies. Everyone should have their blood pressure checked regularly. This is especially so if someone in your family has had it, as there is a strong genetic component that dictates the level of risk.
New guidelines have just recently been released, which lowers the numbers for high blood pressure. So, unfortunately, many more individuals will now be classified as having high blood pressure. The updated guidelines are as follows:
|Blood Pressure Category||Systolic (top number||Diastolic (bottom number)|
|Normal||Less than 120||and||Less than 80|
|Elevated||120-129||and||Less than 80|
|High BP Stage 1||130-139||or||80-89|
|High BP Stage 2||140 or higher||or||90 or higher|
|Hypertensive Crisis||Higher than 180||and/or||Higher than 120|
Source: American Heart Association at www.heart.org
A healthy lifestyle, including diet and physical activity, can help manage high blood pressure if you have it, and may prevent it if you don’t. The DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) has been found to be the most effective eating plan to combat high blood pressure. It encourages lots of fruits and vegetables; low-fat/fat-free dairy; whole grains; and from the Protein Group – nuts and seeds; beans; lean meat; fish; and poultry (without the skin). DASH ensures adequate amounts of calcium, potassium and magnesium, all helpful in keeping blood pressure under control. These food and beverage choices are also low in sodium (as long as you do not add it). Not only is the DASH Diet good for blood pressure, but it’s a way of eating that is healthy for most anyone, with the exception of those who must follow a special diet for a specific medical disorder.
Being physically active on a regular basis aids in keeping your blood pressure down. It also helps reduce your risk of heart disease, maintain a low blood sugar to avoid diabetes, reduce stress, increase strength and balance, and get to and maintain a healthy weight. And you don’t have to join a gym. Physical activity can include walking at a moderate pace for about 30 minutes most days of the week (can be three 10-minute sessions or two 15-minute sessions, rather than 30 minutes all at once); heavy housework, washing the car, gardening, dancing, etc. Just don’t forget to add some type of strength training at least two days per week, to keep your muscles toned. To start off right, you may want to see a certified fitness professional to learn how to exercise in a safe, effective manner. If you have a condition that may limit the type of activity you do, get advice from your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen.
See your health care provider and have your blood pressure checked regularly for proper diagnosis.