High blood pressure typically doesn’t come with warning signs, but it can lead to dangerous health issues like heart disease and stroke if left unchecked.
“West Virginia is the No. 1 state for incidence of hypertension,” said Dr. Wissam Gharib, a cardiologist at the Mon Health Heart & Vascular Center. “And only about half of the people with high blood pressure have their condition under control.”
More than four out of 10 West Virginians have high blood pressure, according to the State of Obesity, a project of the Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
High blood pressure increases your risk for heart attack, stroke, chronic heart failure and kidney disease. In fact, when your blood pressure is high, you’re 4 times more likely to die from stroke and 3 times more likely to die from heart disease.
Although you can’t control all your risk factors for hypertension, you can take steps to prevent or control it and its complications.
Once you know your numbers, lowering them can be as easy as 1, 2, 3:
Toss the salt
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that you consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium each day as part of a healthy eating pattern. As an example, there’s nearly 700 mg of sodium in a slice of pizza and a 1 cup serving of chicken stir fry.
Simple steps to reduce salt intake include:
— Read nutritional labels to check sodium levels.
— Buy products with no salt or low salt.
— Eat fresh foods versus canned, packaged or prepared foods.
— Don’t add salt to food; try herbs or spices instead.
— Try eating at home more often to monitor the salt content of your meals.
Follow a healthy eating plan such as DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which is lower in sodium, cholesterol, and saturated and total fats, and high in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods.
The CDC recommends adults do 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle/strength training activities on 2 or more days a week to work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).
Before starting an exercise program, always check with your physician. Other, easy ways to sneak in extra fitness include:
— Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
— Do lunges while brushing your teeth.
— Get up to change the channel on the TV rather than use a remote.
— Bicep curl a soup or canned vegetable while preparing a meal.
— Take a walk after dinner.
— Walk around the house when talking on the phone rather than sitting.
Check-in with your doctor.
The best way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked regularly.
Between doctor visits, other ways to keep blood pressure in check include:
— Regular use of a home blood pressure monitor and documenting numbers
— Drink less alcohol. Eliminating or limiting alcohol consumption to 1 drink a day for women or 2 for men can reduce systolic blood pressure by 2 to 4 points.
— Reduce stress levels by limiting obligations and allowing more time to finish tasks
— Sleep more. Adults age 18–60 years should get at least 7 hours of sleep each night to promote optimal health
— Cut back on caffeine intake, which can disrupt sleep patterns and cause a short, but dramatic, increase in blood pressure
— If you’re worried about your blood pressure, talk to your doctor.
This column is provided by Mon Health.