Happy High Blood Pressure Education Month! High blood pressure, aka hypertension, affects millions every year. Unfortunately, many either don't know they have it or don't know how to treat it. But the good news is you can start taking better care of yourself today. Here are three ways to prevent or manage high blood pressure.
1. Ch-ch-check it out
An astounding 11 million adults in the U.S. do not know they have high blood pressure. Because high blood pressure often doesn't have visible symptoms, it can go unnoticed and untreated for years.
Not only that, Dr. Lisa Western, BSN, SNP, at Millcreek Primary Care pointed out that many may not realize that high blood pressure is categorized as a cardiovascular disease and is a precursor to other heart problems, such as heart attacks and strokes, so it is important that you have it checked out regularly.
Don’t go to the nearest pharmacy to get a reading. You may be relying on faulty readings. “The cuff to arm size ratio is essential for an accurate reading (something pharmacies won't be able to offer), which can lead to false numbers and false security,” Western said.
Instead, schedule a regular checkup with your doctor each year so you can monitor your health and make adjustments to your lifestyle or medication as needed. Keep in mind that for an official diagnoses, you'll have to have two separate visits with readings over 140/90. If your last reading was at or near that threshold, pay attention for other symptoms that might be affecting you, such as:
- Difficulty with mobility
- Poor memory
- Fogginess or inability to focus
And go through steps to lower it before your next reading, like:
- Beginning a low-carb, low-fat diet
- Implementing daily exercise
- Increasing water intake
- Cutting back on fluids that aren’t as healthy, like those containing too much caffeine and alcohol
Be sure to mention these symptoms and efforts to your doctor so he or she can give you an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.
2. Don't be a fool for food
Everyone loves a good loaded potato or cheesy fries — except your body. Sure, it feels good going down, but if you aren't focusing on the right foods in your diet, you could be contributing to high blood pressure.
The Mayo Clinic recommends following the DASH diet. More of a lifestyle than a traditional fad diet, the DASH diet emphasizes portion size, variety and nutrient-rich foods. This means plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and some fish and poultry.
Although the name suggests a focus on blood pressure health (DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), the diet has many other health benefits, including prevention of osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.
3. Don't wait to lose weight
Controlling your weight is another important part of managing hypertension. In several year-long studies, researchers found that people who lost around 9 pounds lowered their systolic number by 4.5 points and their diastolic number by 3.0 points. By making small changes to your weight and diet, you can make a significant difference in your overall heart health.
Focus on incremental goals that will improve your health over time. “For instance, swap out your morning Diet Coke for a water, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and trade those fries for veggies,” Western advised.
Whether your 23 or 93, staying healthy is a daily process. Keep your blood pressure on track by following a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight and going in for your annual checkup.