May 17th is World Hypertension Day!

Did you know that May 17th is World Hypertension Day?  High Blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and even eye diseases.  The World Hypertension League (WHL) suggests getting your blood pressure checked at least once every year and more often if you already have hypertension.

Nearly three out of 10 people on the planet are living with hypertension.  That is nearly 1.8 billion people! The unfortunate part is that nearly 50% of these people are unaware that they have hypertension. High blood pressure does not usually cause any symptoms and is sometimes referred to as a silent killer. Untreated hypertension increases the strain on the heart and arteries, eventually causing organ damage.

The good news is that your blood pressure can be tested without any discomfort.  Also, once you know you have high blood pressure, you can do something to prevent and control it.  Once your blood pressure is under control, you can avoid the potential health complications associated with hypertension.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries. Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers—the systolic pressure (as the heart beats) over the diastolic pressure (as the heart relaxes between beats). The measurement is written one above or before the other, with the systolic number on top and the diastolic number on the bottom. For example, a blood pressure measurement of 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) is expressed verbally as “120 over 80.”

A normal blood pressure should be below 120/80. If your blood pressure is less than 140/90 but above 120/80, you are at risk of becoming hypertensive.

If your blood pressure is above 140/90, you need to see a health care provider. You may require treatment to help avoid the complications of hypertension such as heart disease and stroke.

How can I lower my blood pressure is I am at risk of hypertension or have hypertension?

If your blood pressure is above 120/80, but below 140/90, there are some steps you can take today to improve your lifestyle which can help reduce your blood pressure.  They include:

*Reducing your body weight to a healthy level

*Being more active – at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week

*Improve your diet by including more vegetable and fruits, reducing salt intake, cutting back on the amount of fat intake, sweets, and refined grains

* Limit the amount of alcohol you drink (<2 drinks/day)

*Stop smoking

The changes listed above might seem overwhelming, but don’t worry.  You don’t have to change everything all at once.  The key to improving your lifestyle is to make small sustainable changes.  Choose one thing to change and stick with it.  Once it has become a routine habit, pick your next change.

If your blood pressure is above 140/90, you should see your health care provider to see if you need additional treatments such as medications.  If you have high blood pressure, it’s very important to quit smoking.  Quitting might not bring your blood pressure down, but it will lower the chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

If your doctor prescribes you blood pressure medication, the most important thing you can do is take it.  If it causes side effects, do not just stop taking it.  Instead, talk to your doctor about the problem as they may be able to lower your dose or change you to something else.  Taking your blood pressure medication can keep you from having a heart attack or stroke, and can save your life!

If you have high blood pressure, it might also be a good idea to get a home blood pressure meter so that you can monitor it more closely.

In the spirit of Global Hypertension Awareness, we encourage you to check your blood pressure today either at home, at a doctor’s clinic, a community health center or at your local pharmacy.  If you are concerned about your reading, speak to you doctor!

By Charlotte Baynham

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