May is High Blood Pressure Education Month

As you might have heard, May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month! Here in the United States, there is an epidemic on the rise. According to the American Heart Association (Or AHA), 77.9 million – that’s one in every three – adults suffer from high blood pressure. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), less than half of the people suffering have their condition under control. To make matters even worse, the AHA’s 2014 projection shows that by 2030, approximately 41% of American adults will suffer from hypertension. It’s important to keep yourself educated on the causes and treatment of high blood pressure to keep you and your family safe from further problems like cardiovascular disease and life-altering strokes.

What is High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is measured as the pressure when the heart pumps (systolic) over the pressure when the heart is between beats (diastolic). Normal blood pressure is considered 120/80, while high blood pressure is considered anything 140/90 or higher. Anything between these numbers is considered an at-risk measurement and should be discussed with your healthcare professional.

Why it Matters

Many people treat high blood pressure like a minor problem, not realizing that the condition actually has a very high mortality rate when gone uncontrolled. Take a look at these mortality statistics from the AHA’s 2014 High Blood Pressure fact sheet:

-High blood pressure was listed on death certificates as the primary cause of death of 63,119
Americans in 2010.
-High blood pressure was listed as a primary or contributing cause of death in about 362,895 of
the more than 2.5 million U.S. deaths in 2010. 28,373 of these deaths were male while 34,746 were female.

As with many chronic conditions, your risk factors grow with age. Gender can play a role, too, as men under 45 are more affected by high blood pressure than women in the same age group. However, at 65 years old the tables turn and women are more likely to suffer from blood pressure related issues than their male counterparts. While most people know the cardiovascular risks associated with high blood pressure, they don’t realize that other essential organs rely on a healthy blood pressure. Those with the condition are more likely to suffer from kidney failure as well.

What’s more? Your blood pressure might not just be causing you harm, it could be hurting your bank account, too. According to the CDC, the United State spends, on average, $47.5 billion each year on high blood pressure treatment.

What You Can Do

Like with many other chronic conditions, prevention is the key. If you currently have healthy blood pressure it is important to limit your sodium intake as sodium has been extensively studied and linked to the increase in occurrences of this condition. The AHA suggests limiting your daily sodium intake to approximately 2,300mg per day. Watching your weight can also help prevent the rise of your blood pressure. Avoiding or quitting smoking is also encouraged.

If you have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, the above measures will help you as well but may not be enough. If you have tried to control your high blood pressure with diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes but have not seen a change in your condition, talk to a healthcare professional about other options such as medications that may be right for you. Be sure to continue following up with your diet and exercise plans even after starting medication to maximize your improvement.

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Sources: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, What Health, and The American Heart Association

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