Approximately one-third of adult Americans have high blood pressure, but there are several ways to reduce it. Often referred to as a “silent killer,” high blood pressure increases your risk of developing heart disease or experiencing a stroke—often without any warning signs. High blood pressure is defined as systolic pressure (the top number of the blood pressure fraction) at or higher than 140 mmHg and/or diastolic pressure (the bottom number) at or higher than 90 mmHg. Hypertension is a widespread problem that causes damage or stress to your body’s blood vessels and potentially leads to atherosclerosis or heart disease.
A common misconception is that if you have high blood pressure, you will experience sweating, headaches, facial flush, dizziness and trouble sleeping, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Because hypertension typically shows no symptoms, it’s even more important to pay attention to your risk factors and take appropriate prevention measures. Risk factors for hypertension include:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Unhealthy diet, particularly one that is low in potassium and high in sodium
The following are recommended lifestyle changes for preventing hypertension in the general public:
- Increase physical exercise. Staying active will lower blood pressure several points.
- Lose weight. In one study participants who lost just eight pounds enjoyed lower blood pressure.
- Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and that has limited saturated and total fat.
- Limit sodium. Try to consume no more than 2,400mg of sodium (about one teaspoon) per day. The best way to reduce sodium intake is to avoid processed foods, which contain added salt.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Men should drink no more than one ounce of ethanol (about 24 ounces of beer, 10 ounces of wine, or 2 ounces of 100-proof whiskey) per day, and women should drink no more than half an ounce of ethanol.
Lifestyle changes can make a big difference in blood pressure levels, but many individuals also need medication to keep hypertension at bay. If you have questions about your blood pressure, or if you’re considering making these lifestyle changes, talk with your Family Medicine Provider. For an appointment, visit HeartlandAnytime.com—choose a provider and a time that fits best in your schedule. For a list of our family medicine providers and office information, click here.