A word from the Balanced Habits Registered Dietitian, Sara Colman, RD, CDE
You may know someone who has high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, or you may have it yourself. You are not alone. It’s estimated that half of the adults in the U.S. have it. It’s a condition to take seriously because high blood pressure doubles the risk for a stroke or heart attack. High blood pressure can also damage the kidneys and heart resulting in kidney or heart failure.
High blood pressure is often called the silent killer. That’s because there are no symptoms until blood pressure becomes extremely high. At that point a person may experience the following:
Pounding in the chest, neck, or ears
Chest pain or irregular heartbeat
Loss of vision
Normal and High Blood Pressure
Systolic and diastolic pressures are measured to determine blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 or lower. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and yearly blood pressure checks are recommended.
Elevated blood pressure occurs when the systolic reading is above 120 to 129 and diastolic below 80. The recommendation is to work on healthy lifestyle habits and recheck pressure in 3 to 6 months.
Stage 1 high blood pressure is when the systolic reading is 130-139 and diastolic is 80-89. Lifestyle changes are recommended along with a risk assessment to determine risk of having a stroke or heart attack over the next 10 years. If your risk is high blood pressure medication may be prescribed.
Stage 2 high blood pressure is diagnosed when systolic reading is above 140 and diastolic is above 90. The treatment includes healthy lifestyle changes and possibly 2 different blood pressure medications, along with monthly doctor visits until pressure is under control. Diagnosis is based on two or more measurements at different times.
One of the first steps toward a healthy diet is to get rid of the junk food, processed food, excess sugar, salt and red meat. Replace these foods with more vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, whole grains and low-fat dairy.
Increasing dietary potassium intake while reducing sodium helps lower blood pressure. The Balanced Habits eating plan is a great starting place to get yourself going on a healthy diet. Weight loss, even a small amount, can help lower blood pressure.
Exercise helps bring blood pressure down. Both aerobic and resistance exercise are recommended. Aim for at least 150 minutes a week aerobic and at least 2 days a week resistance exercise. Daily exercise is optimal.
Other healthy lifestyle habits to control blood pressure include quit smoking, limit alcohol intake, cut back on caffeine and reduce stress. Systolic pressure can fall as much as 35 points with these lifestyle changes.