Just got back from a community blood pressure screening and was surprised how many people were unaware that their blood pressure was elevated. When asked if they wanted their blood pressure checked numerous people said “I don’t have any blood pressure problems” but admitted they had not had their blood pressure checked for several years.
They were surprised with the elevated readings and said they thought their blood pressure was okay because they felt fine. We even found numerous teenagers with higher than normal blood pressures. The kids especially were shocked when we told them their blood pressure was high and wanted to know what they could do to help control their blood pressure.
High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” because most people do not have any symptoms when their blood pressure is elevated. Remember the only way to know if your blood pressure is elevated is to get it checked on a regular basis.
Salt or sodium has been receiving a lot of attention lately in the media – excess salt or sodium in the diet has been proven to elevate blood pressure readings. Salt is in everything especially processed foods. Salt intake recommendations are less than 2,400 mg per day of sodium for people with normal blood pressures and less than 2,000 mg per day of sodium for people with elevated blood pressure readings. Cutting back on salt intake can have a dramatic impact on lowering blood pressure especially in African Americans and postmenopausal women.
Other things that can help control blood pressure include:
- Weight loss, if overweight
- Routine exercise (remember walking counts and is one of the best exercises)
- Increasing fruit and vegetable intake (current recommendations are 5 to 7 servings of fruits/vegetables every day)
- Increasing fiber in your diet
Home blood pressure machines are a good way to help you keep track of your blood pressure readings – do not just rely on getting your blood pressure checked when you go to your doctor/healthcare provider. If you are going to purchase a home blood pressure machine select one for the upper arm. Blood pressure readings from the wrist and finger are not as accurate, the further the blood pressure cuff is from the heart level the less accurate it is. Also take your home blood pressure machine to your doctor/healthcare provider at least once a year to make sure it is giving you accurate readings.
Goal blood pressure readings are less than 120/80 – that is for men, women and children. If you haven’t had your blood pressure checked recently – what are you waiting for?? What about your family members and friends – remind them how important it is to get regular blood pressure monitoring.
Heartstrong wants to try and help you control your blood pressure and other risk factors for heart attacks and strokes. Visit our website www.heart-strong.com for more information and to find out how to obtain our books “Take Charge: A Woman’s Guide to a Healthier Heart” and “Take Charge: A Man’s Roadmap to a Healthy Heart”.