For the first time in a decade, newly published statistics show that American adults (18 years and older) are slowly losing their battle against hypertension, mercilessly labeled as the “silent killer.” Blood pressure is on the rise and currently affecting about 65 million — or one in three — U.S. adults, which exhibits a striking contrast to the 50 million — or one in four — adults affected only 10 years ago. In addition, blood pressure tends to rise with old age and about 60 percent of all Americans age 60 and older have high blood pressure. Combined with another 46 million adult Americans suffering from pre-hypertension, a gray zone where blood pressure readings fall above “normal” (120 mm Hg) and below “high” (140/90 mm Hg), hypertension is the most common chronic disease today, and 30 percent of Americans do not even know that they have it!
Because hypertension can be symptom-free, it can go undetected and untreated for many years potentially resulting in damage to tissues and vital organs, including the heart, brain, and kidneys. In fact, elevated blood pressure is one of the leading causes of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and premature death. But the good news is that simple, healthy lifestyle modifications, such as dietary selection and physical activity level may make an immense impact on preventing the onset of hypertension, reducing or eliminating the need for drugs, and in turn, reducing the risk of cardiovascular events.
These top 10 tips can help you manage your risk and/or minimize your pressure:
1. Have your blood pressure checked by your health provider at least once a year and more often if you have hypertension.
2. Maintain a healthy weight and shed a few pounds if you are overweight. Losing as little as 2.2 pounds has been shown to result in a 1 mm Hg drop in blood pressure.3 On average, a 10-pound loss of weight will lower your pressure by as much as 5 mm Hg.
3. Try flavoring with herbs instead of salt. Refill your salt-shaker with a salt-free blend of herbs. Tasty replacements are Mrs. Dash varieties and McCormick’s salt-free seasonings. Also, remember to stay on the lookout for those lower sodium or salt-free snack foods, soups, packaged foods, and condiment options by carefully reading food labels. You can always spice them up with one of your favorite salt-free seasoning blends when you get cooking at home. If you have high blood pressure, limit your sodium intake to 1,500 mg/day.
4. Got milk? Switch to low-fat dairy and calcium-rich food sources and strive for three calcium-rich/dairy food sources per day.
5. Increase your potassium intake through your diet by striving to eat several servings of fruits and vegetables daily. An easy way to accomplish this is to fill 1/2 your plate with vegetables accompanied by a piece of fruit for lunch and dinner and cut-up vegetables for quick on-the-go snacks.
6. Include one to two servings of fish weekly. Eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, sardines, and herring, has been shown to help lower blood pressure.
7. Kick your smoking habit that takes a heavy toll on your heart. Nicotine, one of thousands of noxious chemicals found in cigarettes, causes blood vessels to constrict or narrow, which may result in increased blood pressure.
8. If you consume alcohol, drink in moderation. Limit alcohol intake to two drinks/day for men and 1 drink/day for women. Excess intake of alcohol may contribute to elevated blood pressure by interfering with blood flow to and from the heart.
9. Get moving. Studies have shown that compared to regular exercise that can lower blood pressure, sedentary lifestyles tend to elevate it. In addition, individuals who are physically active have a 20 to 25 percent reduced risk of developing high blood pressure than inactive individuals. You do not have to spend hours in the gym to reap the exercise rewards. Even light activities, when done daily, such as climbing the stairs, walking the dog, and vacuuming the house, can help lower your risk of heart disease. Getting at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week is ideal and it also helps to keep weight under control.
10. Follow a heart-friendly diet by minimizing high-fat cooking methods and foods. Steam, microwave, or poach foods in water or low-salt broth — or broil or roast. Minimize saturated fat sources, such as butter, cream, fried foods, skin-on meats, red meat, cheeses and ice cream. Select oils, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, and skim dairy foods.
More information can be found at:
American Heart Association ** www.heart.org
Health and Happiness,