The Pressure’s On

Blood-Pressure-Month


High blood pressure (HBP), or hypertension, – sometimes referred to as “the silent killer” – is not to be taken lightly.  According to The American Heart Association, contrary to belief, HBP is actually considered a symptomless disease.  If left untreated, HBP can cause damage to your arteries, heart and other organs; it is essential that you maintain a healthy lifestyle and monitor your blood pressure to avoid serious health risks.

So, in recognition of National Blood Pressure Month, lets chat and chew about ways you can help lower your risk for HBP. 

Preventing High Blood Pressure

According to WebMD, nearly 1 in every 4 American adults has high blood pressure.  Developing a heart-healthy lifestyle is a great way to maintain your blood pressure, but it is essential for any who has been diagnosed with HBP.  It helps reduce your risk of heart attack, heart disease, stroke and more. 

Below are some ways you can help prevent high blood pressure, or lower it if diagnosed.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. You are two to six times more likely to develop HBP is you’re overweight. (1) While losing weight and dieting are no easy task, shedding just ten pounds can help reduce your blood pressure—and the strain on your heart.  Check out the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure Risk Calculator to see whether losing weight may help lower your blood pressure.
  • Exercise regularly. People who are physically active are 20% to 50% less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who are not.  Take a walk or jog for 30 minutes before or after work – every little bit helps lower your risk!  For more, check out AHA’s recommendations and fitness guidelines.
  • Don’t be salty. Shaking the salt habit is important for lowering blood pressure or preventing HBP.  This doesn’t just mean cutting back on the table salt; it means packaged, processed foods too.  The AHA recommends consuming less than 1500 mg of sodium a day – use this sodium tracker to help keep track of your intake.
  • Put a cork in it. Limiting alcohol consumption can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of HBP.  The AHA’s recommends no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women. (2)
  • Stress Less. Did you get a chance to read April’s blog post on managing stress?  If not, check it out here.  Learning how to manage stress can prevent overeating, smoking, drinking alcohol and more, all of which lead to higher risks of heart attack, stroke and of course, high blood pressure.

Even if you take all the necessary precautions to prevent HBP, remember, it can easily sneak up on you.  You can easily monitor your blood pressure from home, but for anyone with HBP, you should also make regular visits to your physician.  If you’re interested in learning more, check out AHA’s High Blood Pressure Tools & Resource page.      

National Wear Red Day®

Today is National Wear Red Day®, which is dedicated to showing support for the awareness of heart disease.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year; it is the leading cause of death in women. 

While heart disease and stroke kill 1 in 3 women, it is 80% preventable1.  That’s why we are going to chat and chew about ways you can go red this February and become more aware of early warning signs and help prevent heart disease!

For starters, the infographic below, by the American Heart Association, provides an in-depth look at the facts and all the progress made to reduce the number of women affected by heart disease.

10-Years-Go-Red-For-Women-700x540

Image © Go Red For Women

THE RISKS

Key risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking1. According to the CDC, “about half of Americans (49%) have at least one of these three risk factors.”  There are additional medical conditions and lifestyle choices that can put people at higher risk such as, diabetes, overweight and obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use2

THE SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of heart disease are no joke.  If you experience major warning signs, seek medical attention right away.  Warnings signs include the following:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, lightheadedness, or cold sweats

TIPS FOR PREVENTING HEART DISEASE

Protecting your heart is the highest priority for preventing heart disease.  Besides lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, the CDC suggests taking the following measures:

  • Follow your doctor’s instructions and stay on your medications
  • Eat a healthy diet that is low in salt; low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol (see here for recipes)
  • Eat fruits and vegetables – recommend 4-5 servings per day3
  • Take a brisk 10-minute walk / 3x per day / 5 times a week
  • Don’t smoke

As a friendly reminder, as a Compass Rose Health Plan member, you have access to a free smoking cessation program to help you quit smoking.  Visit www.compassrosebenefits.com/QuitSmoking to learn more or to sign-up today.

RESOURCES

There are tons of resources available!  For starters, check out this list of ways to live healthy provided by Go Red for Women.  The CDC also offers educational pieces with important information ranging from key definitions, to podcasts, fact sheets, and more!  Plus, you can always ask your doctor to help educate you on early warning signs of heart problems as well.  Other resources are only a Google search away, so we encourage you to set aside time to research more—especially if you have health concerns of your own.

From the infographic above, clearly the fight against heart disease is growing in strength and numbers.  Focusing specifically on women, it clearly shows how a conscious effort has been made to lose weight, quit smoking, check cholesterol levels, develop a heart health plan, and much more.  So, even if red isn’t your color, show your support for the fight against heart disease by going red for women today!

References: