Chronically high blood pressure — or hypertension — can cause damage to your blood vessels and internal organs including your heart. Currently affecting nearly half of all adults in the United States, hypertension has been called a silent threat because the condition itself has no symptoms. However, the effect on your body can be life-threatening over time. Engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors at all stages of life can help to decrease your risk.
What You Can Do About High Blood Pressure
The first thing you can do is visit your doctor for routine checkups. Even though high blood pressure rarely shows symptoms, the abnormal force of blood through the arteries, over time, can cause damage to your organs, including your heart, blood vessels and kidneys. Thus, chronic hypertension increases the risk for cardiovascular disease and other serious health issues.
Know your blood pressure numbers and have it monitored. Regular physicals will determine if your blood pressure is within the healthy limits. A blood pressure of less than 120 over 80 is considered healthy.
Who You Are Matters
Some risk factors can’t be changed. Age and ethnicity both play a role in high blood pressure risk. High blood pressure tends to increase with age. Non-Hispanic black Americans also are more likely to develop pre-hypertension and hypertension than non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaska Natives. While age and ethnicity are contributing factors, anyone can be at risk, especially people with diabetes or individuals with a body mass index (BMI) in the overweight or obese range.
Healthy Lifestyle Choices to Reduce Risk of Hypertension
Focusing on lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk of hypertension. Getting regular physical activity, limiting alcohol intake, avoiding tobacco and focusing on a healthful eating style are all ways to help reduce risk.
Individuals at risk of high blood pressure may be advised to follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet to lower their blood pressure. The DASH diet is rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat and sodium. Studies show that the DASH diet can help lower your blood pressure.
Since most Americans are getting too much sodium from the foods they eat, it's important to learn ways to reduce it. Simply lowering sodium intake may have a significant impact on blood pressure and thus improve overall health.
Written by Michelle Elliott, RD
Adapted from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. www.Eatright.org