Understanding High Blood Pressure
The heart, a muscle about the size of a fist, is one of the hardest working organs in our bodies. Over the course of an average life span, it beats about two and a half billion times. The daily choices we make determine our heart's ability to function at its best.
Everybody has, and needs, blood pressure. Blood pressure allows blood to circulate through the body, getting oxygen and food to vital organs. If it's too high, your blood pressure might be damaging your arteries and making your heart work too hard. Fortunately, you can do a lot to control your blood pressure and lower your risk of serious problems in the future.
Know Your Numbers
The medical term for high blood pressure is hypertension. Bridget Martin, M.D., with Providence Medical Group – Sherwood, advises patients to check their blood pressure often, since high blood pressure doesn't usually have symptoms.
“Hypertension is often referred to as the ‘silent killer' because you can have relatively high blood pressure and not know it,” says Martin. “Hypertension affects the heart and all the arteries in the body and directly increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.”
If you've been told you have high blood pressure, your physician/provider may prescribe medication to lower it. However, some of the most effective ways to control high blood pressure is through lifestyle changes. High blood pressure can almost always be prevented, so these steps are very important, even if you do not have high blood pressure.
- Eat a healthy diet that incorporates fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils (such as olive and canola), and low-fat or nonfat dairy products. Avoid large portion sizes and saturated fats.
- Be physically active. Walking briskly for 30 to 45 minutes every day may lower your blood pressure up to 10 points.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Even a moderate weight loss of 5 to 10 pounds can make a significant difference in your blood pressure.
- Reduce sodium (salt) in your diet. Choose foods that are fresh, plain frozen, or canned with “no salt added.” Use herbs and spices to add flavor to your meals.
- Quit smoking. Smoking damages your heart and arteries. Combined with high blood pressure, smoking significantly increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.