High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because it’s very possible to have high blood pressure and not even realize it. May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, which makes it the perfect time to find out more about this condition – and how you can protect yourself and stay healthy.
Stats and facts
Blood pressure is the force of blood on the walls of your blood vessels as is flows through them. Fluctuations in pressure happen normally through the day, but when the pressure is too high too often, you are considered to have high blood pressure. Your doctor may also call it hypertension. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 1 in 3 American adults have high blood pressure.1 That’s 67 million people whose hearts are working too hard, and who are at risk of heart disease and stroke because of it.
What are the blood pressure ranges as defined by the American Heart Association?2
- Normal is less than 120/80
- Prehypertension is 120-139 over 80-89
- High blood pressure stage 1 is 140-159 over 90-99
- High blood pressure stage 2 is 160 or higher over 100 or higher
- Hypertensive crisis requiring immediate emergency care is higher than 180 over 110
How to stay healthy
First of all, see your doctor regularly and ask what he or she feels is a normal blood pressure for you based on your age and health. Most drug stores have a blood pressure monitor on site, so you can check your pressure in between appointments if you want to, or have been told to track it more closely.
Once you know what your blood pressure is, you may be directed to make some changes and adopt some healthy habits. Even if you don’t currently have high blood pressure, living a healthy, active life can help keep it within a safe range.
What can you do to prevent and combat high blood pressure?
- If you’ve been prescribed blood pressure medication, make sure to take it as instructed
- Quit smoking, and if you’re not a smoker, don’t start.
- Watch your salt intake and reduce it where possible. Visit the Mayo Clinic for dozens of delicious low-sodium recipes.
- Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week.
- Figure out ways to help you manage your stress – try yoga, meditation or even talk therapy if you feel your anxiety isn’t under control.
- Have your blood pressure checked regularly so you can track your progress.
The more you know about your own health the better. If your aim is to achieve and manage a healthy blood pressure, The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation has something called the Blood Pressure Action Plan Tracker that’s free to access online. It can assess your blood pressure, save your readings so you can track them, and teach you the basics of blood pressure. It can even help you manage your medications, and set reminders for blood pressure readings, appointments, and medication refills.
Every healthy step you take to protect your heart is one towards living a longer and happier life with the ones you love. Knowing your blood pressure and making sure you have it under control is a very big step indeed.
413718H CAN/US (05/16)