May is National High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Education month. What you don’t know about hypertension could hurt you, as hypertension affects one in three Americans. Yet, many people with the condition don’t know they have it.
Uncontrolled hypertension increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States. Fortunately, however, hypertension is treatable, and often preventable. Get your blood pressure checked regularly, and take action to control your blood pressure if it is too high.
Hypertension increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke, chronic kidney failure, and peripheral vascular disease. That is why hypertension is one of Health Power’s “Big 4 Special Targets”, as a “major killer and disabler”. This condition occurs when the blood pressure, or force of blood pushing against the blood vessel walls, gets too high and stays that way.
Hypertension is called The Silent Killer because it usually has no reliable symptoms. You can look and feel great and still have hypertension. You can also be young and have the disease. It can affect anyone at any age, even children.
What the two blood pressure numbers mean:
The top number, or systolic blood pressure – occurs when the heart pumps or contracts, and
The bottom number, or diastolic blood pressure – occurs when the heart is resting or relaxing.
Most health professionals agree that the range of normal blood pressure should be 130/80 or less. Also, generally speaking, the lower the numbers are, the better.
Overview of Hypertension in Minorities
It is estimated that more than 50 million Americans have hypertension or high blood pressure. It occurs most often in African Americans. In fact, based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for 2007 to 2010, more than 4 out of every 10 African American adults, or 40%, have hypertension, as compared to about 3 out of 10 White Americans, or 30%. In addition, almost 10% fewer African Americans reported that their blood pressure was under control as compared to White Americans.
Key Risk Factors for Hypertension
Family history of hypertension
High salt or sodium intake in the diet
High fat intake
Overweight and obesity
Excessive alcohol intake
Not enough regular physical activity, or exercise
Chronic or continuous stress
Being African-American (because they have the highest incidence)
In addition to the above risk factors, some women who use oral contraceptives may also have an increased risk of developing hypertension.
Key Lifestyle Approaches for Hypertension Control:
Active and regular exercise
Limiting salt intake to no more than 2400 milligrams a day
Limiting alcohol intake to no more than 1 ounce a day
Taking the minimum daily requirement of potassium, calcium and magnesium
Avoiding excessive emotional stress
Although there is effective treatment for hypertension, many people with the condition don’t keep their blood pressures under control. Therefore, increased personal and public focus needs to be given to hypertension awareness especially among minorities, with emphasis on hypertension prevention, early detection and control.
Since hypertension is a major and very easily identified risk factor for heart attack, stroke, and even diabetes, it’s very important to do everything possible to prevent and control it. However, if you or someone close to you already has hypertension, commit yourself to getting and keeping it under control – not just for yourself, but also for those who love you.
One of the most important things a person can do to prevent and control hypertension other than generally eating healthy and having regular physical activity, is to limit the amount of his or her daily salt, or sodium, intake.
Visit the following two special Health Power website resources to help prevent and control hypertension:
- Our Food and Fitness Channel, which contains many healthy and delicious cultural specialty recipes as well as recipes by celebrities and other notables, nutritionists and chefs. This channel also provides fitness tip sheets such as “Walking for the Health of It”.
- Our Health Power Tip Sheet Section, provides tip sheets related to all of the controllable hypertension risk factors.
That’s why Health Power is an active member of the National Sodium Reduction Initiative (NSRI), a national partnership of more than 80 governmental, non-profit and private organizations, restaurants and businesses, working together to decrease sodium intake – in packaged grocery foods including processed foods, restaurants, at home, in schools and everywhere else.
Pre-hypertension – When a person’s top blood pressure number is between 130 and 139, or the bottom number is between 80 and 89, he or she has a condition called Pre-Hypertension. At that time, the person should:
– see his or her doctor,
– increase their physical activity, and
– decrease their sodium (or salt) intake.
As mentioned earlier, generally speaking, the lower the blood pressure numbers are, the better.
Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!