Taking Care of High Blood Pressure

By Mindy Probst

Around 76.4 million U.S. adults have been diagnosed with hypertension — or high blood pressure. It typically has no symptoms, but it can cause harm throughout the body if not treated and is often referred to as the silent killer. For this reason it is important to “know your numbers”.

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The first step to knowing your numbers is to regularly check your blood pressure.

  • Normal blood pressure: systolic <120 mmHg and diastolic <80mmHg
  • Prehypertension: systolic 120 to 139 mmHg or diastolic 80 to 89 mmHg
  • Hypertension:
    • Stage 1: systolic 140 to 159 mmHg or diastolic 90 to 99 mmHg
    • Stage 2: systolic >160 or diastolic >100 mmHg

Research has identified some common risk factors of developing hypertension:

  • Family history of hypertension
  • High sodium intake
  • Excess alcohol intake
  • Obesity and weight gain
  • Age
  • Physical inactivity
  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Hypertension may be more common among those with certain personality traits: hostile attitudes, time urgency/impatience, depression

If you have any of the risk factors above, it is important you change your lifestyle in order to improve you blood pressure levels, or prevent the development of hypertension. Here are some suggestions:

  • Consistent, moderate intensity exercise
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage stress
  • Decrease sodium intake. Most Americans should consume less than 2,000mg of sodium per day. Individuals who meet one or more of the following criteria should consume 1,500mg or less of sodium per day:
    • Age 51 years and older
    • Black race
    • Diagnosed hypertension
    • Diagnosed diabetes mellitus
    • Diagnosed chronic kidney disease
  • DASH diet – eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, skinless poultry, fish, beans and low-fat dairy. Eat less saturated fat from high-fat dairy products and red meat, sodium and sweets. Learn more

Despite well-publicized studies suggestion fructose may increase hypertension risk, the best data suggests it does not raise blood pressure or increase the incidence of hypertension.