PREVENTING HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

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High blood pressure affects about 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. With numbers like that, there’s a good chance you know someone who has it. Left untreated, it can lead to a host of health problems such as heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.

So the question is, if it’s so common, is there any way to avoid it? For many, the answer is a resounding “yes!” Keeping your blood pressure in check now may put you in a better position to stay heart-healthy for years to come.

Let’s look over a few key pointers that can help keep your blood pressure under control.

Know your blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure checked is often the only way to know if yours is too high. There are usually no symptoms until serious damage has taken place. You typically get your blood pressure checked each time you visit your doctor. Your doctor will talk with you about steps to take if yours is too high.

Avoid tobacco. Whether it’s cigarettes, chew, or cigars, tobacco use is a quick way to raise your blood pressure. Tobacco products are one of the hardest things to quit. So if you haven’t started, do yourself a huge favor and don’t pick it up. If you need help quitting, there are a lot of resources available to help you on your way. Try to make quitting a priority in your life.

Choose heart-healthy foods. Why is it that some of our favorite foods are some of the unhealthiest? Eating a diet that’s high in fast food, pastries, cakes, and fatty or processed meats and other foods is the quickest way to put on weight. And the more weight you carry, the greater your risk of developing high blood pressure. Many of these foods may also be high in sodium (salt). And, when the sodium content in your cells is high, your blood pressure tends to go up. But there’s good news! You can learn to appreciate and savor healthy foods, too. Fruits and veggies are amazing foods. Fresh, frozen, or cooked the right way, these foods are packed with many nutrients—and they’re great for your heart. Your heart also will thank you if you stick with lean and unprocessed meats like skinless chicken and fish, or plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, and nuts.

Stay active. Regular physical activity strengthens your heart and lowers your risk of high blood pressure. Try to get your heart pumping at a moderate pace for at least 150 minutes per week or 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week or more. Walking briskly or uphill can get your heart pumping at this pace. Or you can bump it up a notch with 75 minutes or more each week of vigorous cardio moves such as jogging, swimming laps, or riding your bike uphill. Strength training can also help you shape lean muscle and burn even more fat and calories—even when you’re resting and relaxing. But if you have certain health conditions or it’s been a while since you were last active, talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

Keep a healthy weight. Being overweight can make you 2 to 6 times more likely to have high blood pressure. Reaching your goal weight may seem hard to do. We know it’s not easy. Try breaking your total weight loss goals into smaller goals. Losing as little as 5 – 10 percent of your body weight can help lower your blood pressure and ease the strain on your heart. Once you’ve reached your first milestone, keep moving toward the next one. Stick with the previous tips about staying active and eating heart-healthy foods, and you might just find that you can reach your healthy goal weight—and stay there.

Monitor your blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, it’s important to work closely with your doctor. Your doctor can help you make the right choices to keep your blood pressure under control. It’s also key to keep an eye on your blood pressure if yours is high. You can do this with a home monitor. You can buy one at most drug stores. Be sure to talk with your doctor about monitoring your blood pressure at home before you get started.

It’s easier to keep your blood pressure under control before it becomes an issue that you have to deal with for the long haul. If you’re already practicing these lifestyle behaviors, you’re doing your body and your heart a great favor. If not, it’s never too late to start making healthy changes.