What is hypertension?
Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure, a common condition occurring in one in three Americans. Blood pressure is considered high if it stays at 140/90 mmHg over time, regardless of variable factors.
Why should I pay attention to hypertension?
If blood pressure remains high over time, it can cause serious health problems. The heart can become larger or weaker, and unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Aneurysms can form in the blood vessels, or plaque can build up, causing blood vessels to narrow and limiting blood flow to the heart, brain, other organs or extremities. Potential results of these complications include heart failure, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, amputation, blindness and more.
What increases my risk?
A number of factors increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. Lifestyle habits, such as consuming too much sodium, drinking too much alcohol, not eating enough potassium (found in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy), smoking, or being physically inactive contribute significantly. Blood pressure tends to increase with age, and high blood pressure is more common in African American adults than other races. A family history also increases the risk. Certain medications, including asthma drugs, cold relief products like decongestants and multi-symptom cold relievers, birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy can cause an increase in blood pressure. Pregnancy and medical conditions such as chronic kidney disease, thyroid disease and sleep apnea can also raise blood pressure.
What can I do to decrease my risk?
Follow a healthy diet. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan was specifically developed to help lower blood pressure, and focuses on heart-healthy foods that are low in fat, cholesterol and sodium. Learn to read food labels and watch your sodium intake. Be physically active and maintain a healthy weight. Quit smoking and manage stress.