As part of our American Heart Month blog series, we want to focus on a leading risk factor for both heart disease and stroke – hypertension.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common condition that can eventually lead to serious health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it affects nearly half of American adults, even though many people don’t realize they have it.
Read on to learn more about hypertension and how you can prevent and manage this dangerous condition.
High blood pressure 101
Hypertension usually develops over time and can damage your arteries by making them more elastic. This eventually reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart, leading to heart disease and other medical conditions.
Here are some facts about high blood pressure that you might not be aware of.
High blood pressure doesn’t usually have any symptoms. This is why it’s sometimes referred to as a “silent killer”.
Hypertension isn’t age-based. Although many people assume hypertension affects older adults, nearly 1 in 4 adults aged 20 to 44 have high blood pressure.
Women and Black Americans have unique risks related to high blood pressure. For example, pregnant women with high blood pressure are more likely to have complications during pregnancy (e.g. premature delivery, low birth weight babies and potential harm to the mother’s kidneys and other organs). Additionally, Black Americans (men and women) have higher rates of hypertension than any other racial or ethnic group.
Hypertension can hurt your health in many ways, but the good news is that it’s treatable and preventable.
How to lower your risk and manage hypertension
If you have high blood pressure, you can take steps to lower your risk for serious health problems.
Here’s some effective changes you can make to prevent and manage hypertension.
Live a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating a healthy diet that has plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Your healthcare provider might recommend altering your diet to include foods rich in potassium, fiber and protein, while avoiding foods that have high levels of sodium (salt) and saturated fat.
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for hypertension. Adults should aim to get at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise each week (or about 30 minutes a day for five days a week).
Quit smoking and other tobacco products. Smoking raises your blood pressure and can put you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke.
Make sleep a priority. Sleep helps keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. Check out the CDC’s sleep recommendations to improve heart health.
It’s also important to measure your blood pressure regularly at home or with your doctor.
Stay tuned for more heart health blogs. And be sure to share this information with your family, friends and students!