Take the Pressure Off

May is High Blood Pressure Education Month.

Normal healthy blood pressure is under 120 systolic and under 80 diastolic. Elevated blood pressure (EBP) is 120 to 129 systolic and less than 80 diastolic. People with EBP are likely to develop high blood pressure unless they act to prevent it. 

Untreated, a 20-point higher systolic or a 10-point higher diastolic number can double your risk of death from a heart attack or stroke.

High blood pressure numbers:

Stage 1 HBP is 130 to 139 systolic or 80 to 89 diastolic. 

Stage 2 HBP is 140 systolic or higher or 90 diastolic or higher. 

If you reach either stage, your health care provider will likely recommend lifestyle changes, maybe medication (depending on cardiovascular risks or family history), and regular follow-ups until your BP is controlled.

You have a 90% chance of developing HBP. This number has increased recently, partly because more Americans are overweight and living longer. Younger people are being impacted the most, as hypertension has tripled among adults under age 45.

If you are diagnosed with HBP, work with your provider to:

1. Learn how you can self-monitor your BP levels day to day. Get a home monitor approved by your provider, and learn the best times for checking your BP, and when not to check it (e.g., within 30 minutes of smoking, drinking coffee or exercising). Have your medical clinic check your home blood pressure monitor for accuracy. To learn more, search for blood pressure at home at heart.org.

2. Learn to control your BP with positive daily choices. Adopting a diet-and-lifestyle approach is the recommended first-line treatment for people with stage 1 hypertension who are at low risk for developing heart disease. What works: a diet high in fruits and vegetables (search for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH at www.nhlbi.nih.gov).

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