The Silent Killer: High Blood Pressure

About 1 in 3 adults in the United States, or about 70 million people, have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is considered readings above 140/90mm Hg; pre-hypertension is usually diagnosed when readings fall between 120/80mm Hg and 139/89mm Hg. High blood pressure increases one’s risk for heart disease and stroke, which are two of the leading causes of death for adults. Only about half—52 percent—of the 70 million people who are being treated for the condition are taking medication and making lifestyle changes to keep their blood pressure within the targeted range. This is called “controlled” blood pressure.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is sometimes called “the silent killer” because it can be damaging the body without symptoms. Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to heart attacks, strokes and other conditions. Approximately 1.5 million people suffer heart attacks and strokes each year in the United States. About 800,000 people die from heart disease annually: that’s 1 in every 3 deaths. Of those, 150,000 people are under the age of 65. Controlling blood pressure is not a magic bullet for preventing heart attacks and strokes, but it certainly helps.

Taking blood pressure medications exactly as prescribed and regularly checking blood pressure to make sure it stays in the targeted range—and communicating with your healthcare provider when it’s not—are essential parts of self-monitoring. Additionally, making healthy lifestyle choices are vitally important to lessen the risk of heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases. The American Heart Association recommends the following lifestyle changes to help control high blood pressure:

  • Eat healthy diet that is low in salt (sodium), total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Those with blood pressure concerns should aim to eat no more than 2,400mg of sodium per day. Saturated fats should make up no more than 5 to 6 percent of total daily calories. For someone eating 2,000 calories a day, that’s about 13 grams of saturated fat. Diets should be high in fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Be active. The recommended amount of physical activity for adults is at least 150 minutes per week. That’s 30 minutes five times per week. If you do not have time to get all 30 minutes in at one time, try taking a brisk 10 minute walk three times a day, five days a week.
  • Do not smoke. Assistance programs are available to help people quit.

These lifestyle changes for blood pressure control are similar to those for preventing high blood pressure and managing and preventing other chronic diseases. Suffering from a chronic disease can negatively affect one’s enjoyment of their family and friends, their engagement in life and restrict their ability to perform important daily activities. Johnson County offers community-based programs that can help people control blood pressure and other risk factors for chronic disease. If you are interested in learning more about the Chronic Disease Self- Management Program please contact us.

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