You have probably heard people say they have high blood pressure or talk about the significance of it. However, it may be more common than you think. About 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. suffer from high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Many people don’t even realize their blood pressure is too high unless it relates to some other form of medical condition.
Blood pressure is measured by two numbers: systolic and diastolic pressure. The best way to know if you have high blood pressure or are at risk of high blood pressure is to get regular tests from your health care provider.
Normal blood pressure for most adults means systolic pressure is less than 120 and diastolic pressure is less than 80. Anything above these numbers results in prehypertension or the risk of blood pressure becoming too high unless steps are taken to prevent it.
For testing in children and teens, the health care provider compares the blood pressure reading to what is normal for other kids who are the same age, height, and gender.
By itself, high blood pressure usually has no warning signs, but it increases the risk for life-threatening conditions like heart attack or stroke. However, high blood pressure is preventable and treatable. Healthy lifestyle choices can keep high blood pressure from causing serious health complications.
Here are a few simple choices you can make to prevent the risk of high blood pressure:
A healthy diet
Limiting the amount of sodium (salt) and increasing the amount of potassium in your diet is a great way to manage blood pressure. It is also important to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoiding foods that are high in fat can also have a positive impact.
Relaxing and managing stress can improve your emotional and physical well-being. Stress management techniques can be as simple as exercising or listening to music.
Limiting alcohol consumption
Drinking too much alcohol regularly can actually raise your blood pressure. Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink (two drinks per day for men, one for women) can help keep blood pressure low.
Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, can make your heart beat harder and use more oxygen than usual. 1 to 2 hours of aerobic exercise each week is a great step to managing blood pressure!
Cigarette smoking raises your blood pressure and can put you at a higher risk for many serious health complications. If you do not smoke, do not start. If you do smoke, talk to your health care provider for help in finding the best way for you to quit.