Almost half of the U.S. adult population suffers from hypertension, or high blood pressure.  Many people don’t have symptoms, so they don’t realize they have it.  Hypertension is called the silent killer because it puts individuals at risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and other serious medical conditions.

How is blood pressure measured?

Blood pressure refers to the blood pushing against the arteries.  Blood pressure is measured in two numbers – systolic pressure and diastolic pressure.  The first number, systolic, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats.  Diastolic pressure, the second number, measures pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.  A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mmHg.

Tips for managing high blood pressure

If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it’s important to take steps to help manage the condition.  The following lifestyle changes can help:

  • Physical activity – Strive for 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.  Examples include walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, tennis, and gardening (including mowing and raking leaves).
  • Maintain a healthy diet and weight – Eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, poultry without the skin, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, nuts, legumes, olive oil, unsalted seeds (pumpkin, flax, sunflower), and low-fat dairy products.  Limit saturated fats and trans fats, salt, red meat, sweets, sugary drinks, fried foods, and process foods.  Limit alcoholic beverages.  Cut down on portion size and lose a few pounds, if necessary.  People who are obese may want to consider a medical weight loss program.
  • Don’t smoke – Nicotine raises blood pressure and heart rate, narrows the arteries, and hardens their walls.  If you are a smoker, get help to quit.
  • Get enough quality sleep – Blood pressure goes down during sleep.  Being awake for longer periods means blood pressure stays elevated.  Six to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is recommended.
  • Manage stress – Chronic stress and anxiety can contribute to high blood pressure.  Find ways to reduce stress such as meditation, hobbies, reducing caffeine, and regular exercise.

Next Steps

Sometimes lifestyle changes are not enough to lower blood pressure.  Prescription medications are available to bring blood pressure down to acceptable levels.  The physicians at RMD Primary Care can evaluate your blood pressure and answer any questions you may have.  If it has been a while since your last physical exam, contact us today to schedule an appointment.