Are you one of the 103 million Americans who have high blood pressure? Do you have a family history of it? Do you know your last blood pressure reading? Also known as the “silent killer” or hypertension, high blood pressure typically has no symptoms but can lead to deadly health consequences such as heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. The good news is that high blood pressure can often be managed effectively when patients work with their physicians to create and follow a treatment plan.
The American Heart Association seeks to reduce the number of patients with uncontrolled high blood pressure to help save lives from heart disease and stroke. A new guideline released at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions last month called for earlier intervention for high blood pressure to avoid its devastating, life-alerting consequences.
According to the American Heart Association, of the 103 million Americans with high blood pressure, only about half of them have it controlled to a healthy level. Blood pressure has the biggest impact on death rates from cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke.
Rather than 1 in 3 U.S. adults having high blood pressure (32 percent) with the previous definition, the new guidelines will result in nearly half of the U.S. adult population (46 percent) having high blood pressure, or hypertension. However, there will only be a small increase in the number of U.S. adults who will require antihypertensive medication.
For most people, lifestyle changes can help bring down blood pressure numbers. Regular exercise and losing ten pounds can have a positive effect on blood pressure. For others in the hypertension categories, depending on their risk, medication might be added.
While fewer Americans are dying from heart disease and stroke, the death rate caused by high blood pressure is on the rise, increasing 13 percent between 2001 and 2011. High blood pressure is costing the U.S. economy an estimated $46 billion annually in healthcare services, medications and missed days of work.
Lifestyle changes like llosing weight, quitting smoking, reducing sodium and alcohol intake, stress reduction, and exercising 30 minutes a day can bring those numbers down.
To lose weight, use a weight loss app to find out your daily calorie needs and stay in that range by eating mostly fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meat and fish. Exercise can burn extra calories, keep your heart muscle strong and arteries elastic. Walk before, during or after work. Walk your dog, walk your kids, walk your heart! If you smoke, quit today. If you’ve tried and failed, try again. Most smokers need multiple attempts to stay quit. Don’t give up! Smoking causes incredible damage to your body.
Visit www.heart.org/quitsmoking for tips.
The AHA recommends limiting sodium to 1,500 mg/daily by reducing processed or pre-packaged foods—the leading source of dietary sodium–and reading labels to help identify lower-sodium products. Meditation and exercise—even yoga—can help you lower stress. And keep alcohol intake to one serving per day for women, and two for men. And if you don’t drink, don’t start.
The AHA recommends sharing family healthy history with your doctor, and knowing your numbers like blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. For more information visit www.heart.org/highbloodpressure.
A new high blood pressure Ad Council campaign shares stories of survivors of heart attack and stroke who had uncontrolled high blood pressure. Watch them at http://bit.ly/SurviveHighBP.