Keep your hypertension under control

Three men being active outside

Hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) occurs when the force of blood pumping against artery walls is too high, which can cause significant health problems down the line such as heart disease, stroke, brain and kidney damage, vision loss, and death.[1]

The American Heart Association calls high blood pressure “the silent killer” because often there are no warning symptoms. It is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world.[2] The good news is that lifestyle changes can reduce this risk.

Know Your Numbers!

It used to be that you were considered hypertensive if your blood pressure was140/90 mm Hg or higher. (The first number is called the systolic; the second is the diastolic.) But in late 2017, the American College of Cardiology(link opens in new window) (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) released new guidelines[3]:

  • Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg
  • Elevated: Systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80
  • Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89
  • Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg
  • Hypertensive crisis: Systolic over 180 and/or diastolic over 120

Result? Now more than 46 percent of Americans are identified as having high blood pressure, compared to only 32 percent under the old guidelines.[4]

Managing High Blood Pressure

Get your blood pressure checked by your physician, or monitor it at home. (Ask your doctor or pharmacist for recommendations for a reliable in-home monitor.)

If your numbers are too high, make a lifelong commitment to keeping them under control. Some steps you can take include:

  • Follow the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan [5]: Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils, Limit foods with salt, high saturated fat content, such as fatty red meat, full-fat dairy products, sugar and sugary drinks, and tropical oils (coconut, palm kernel, and palm). Avoid processed foods.
  • Limit alcohol intake. Men should not have more than two alcoholic drinks a day; women should not have more than one. [6]
  • Quit smoking or chewing tobacco, and avoid second-hand smoke. Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. [7]
  • Lose extra weight. Just ten pounds off will positively affect blood pressure. Men's waistlines should be less than 40 inches; women's should be less than 35 inches.[8]
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes daily. Most effective choices are: walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing and strength training. Ask your physician to help you develop an appropriate exercise routine for you.[9]
  • Drug therapy. If you can't bring your numbers down through these lifestyle changes, your physician can prescribe blood pressure medications. You may need to try several before finding the right one for you.[10]

Sources:

[1] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373410 (link opens in new window)

[2] https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/05/01/nearly-half-of-us-adults-could-now-be-classified-with-high-blood-pressure-under-new-definitions (link opens in new window)

[3] http://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2017/11/08/11/47/mon-5pm-bp-guideline-aha-2017 (link opens in new window)

[4] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373410 (link opens in new window)

[5] [6] [7] https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/dash-eating-plan (link opens in new window)

[8] [9] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20046974 (link opens in new window)

[10] https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/types-of-blood-pressure-medications (link opens in new window)