American Heart Month 2020: High Blood Pressure Control—We Got This!
By Kay Searfoss, RD, CDE
LCO Community Health Center
During February, National Heart Month, we encourage you to have your blood pressure checked and learn how to manage or prevent high blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure, or hypertension, is dangerous and far too common. In fact, 1 of 3 adults in the United States has the condition. High blood pressure usually has no signs or symptoms, but it does have consequences. The only way to know if you’re at risk for high blood pressure is to know your numbers.
Having high blood pressure means the pressure of the blood in your blood vessels is higher than it should be. High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” because it often has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it. That’s why it is important to check your blood pressure regularly. The good news is that you can take steps to prevent high blood pressure or to control it if your blood pressure is already high.
You can help prevent high blood pressure by making healthy choices and managing any health conditions you may have. By living a healthy lifestyle, you can help keep your blood pressure in a healthy range and lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. A healthy lifestyle includes:
Eating a healthy diet
Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid high blood pressure and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating foods low in salt (sodium) and high in potassium can lower your blood pressure. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan is one healthy diet that is proven to help people lower their blood pressure. For more information about the DASH diet, check this website: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/dash-eating-plan or talk with Kay Searfoss, dietitian at the Lac Courte Oreilles Community Health Center, 715-638-5153.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Being overweight or obese increases your risk for high blood pressure. A weight loss of 5-10%, as little as 10 lbs. for a person weighing 200 lbs., can reduce your blood pressure if the weight loss is maintained.
Getting enough physical activity
Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. For adults, the Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling, every week. Children and adolescents should get 1 hour of physical activity every day.
Cigarette smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. If you do not smoke, do not start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your health care provider can suggest ways to help you quit.
Limiting alcohol use
Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day, and women only one.
If you have prehypertension or diabetes, you can take steps to lower your risk for high blood pressure. Measuring is an important step toward keeping a healthy blood pressure. Because high blood pressure and prehypertension often have no symptoms, checking your blood pressure is the only way to know for sure whether it is too high. Talk to your health care provider about how often you should have your blood pressure checked and whether you should have a home blood pressure monitor.
If you learn that you have prehypertension or high blood pressure, you should take steps to control your blood pressure to lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. Most people with diabetes—about 6 out of 10—also have high blood pressure.1 If your health care provider thinks you have symptoms of diabetes, he or she may recommend that you get tested.
If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels carefully. Talk with your health care team about treatment options. Your doctor may recommend certain lifestyle changes to help keep your blood sugar under good control—those actions will help reduce your risk for high blood pressure.
If you take medication to treat high blood pressure or diabetes, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Always ask questions if you do not understand something. Never stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor or pharmacist.
You and your health care team can work together to prevent or treat the medical conditions that lead to high blood pressure. Discuss your treatment plan regularly, and bring a list of questions to your appointments.
The Lac Courte Oreilles Community Health Center has a team of professionals to assist you with making lifestyle changes to manage your blood pressure. Ask your health care provider for a referral for nutrition counseling, weight management, quitting smoking or alcohol, or for help with starting a physical activity plan. Call 715-638-5100 to make an appointment.