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BLOG Simple Steps to Controlling Your Blood Pressure

There is a reason why high blood pressure is called the silent killer. This symptomless disease affects almost 75 million Americans every year with devastating results yet most Americans dismiss it until it is too late. You dont feel it until you have a stroke or a heart attack, said Gerald Fletcher, M.D., professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. High blood pressure is painless but deadly. High blood pressure, or hypertensive crisis, is when the BP readings rise to 180 or above on top (systolic) and 110 or above on bottom (diastolic). This high of a reading usually requires immediate emergency medical treatment. But it doesnt stop there. Any patient with blood pressure higher than 140/90 is at risk for developing serious complications from high blood pressure and faces possible long-term treatment for the condition. Just look at these harrowing statistics: 77 percent of Americans treated for their first stroke had a BP over 140/90. 69 percent of Americans who have a first heart attack had a BP over 140/90. 74 percent of Americans with congestive heart failure had a BP over 140/90.

So what exactly is high blood pressure? In a nutshell, high blood pressure makes your heart work harder than it should have to causing it to thicken and become stiffer. Left untreated, this increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, vision loss, erectile dysfunction, kidney failure and congestive heart failure. Short term, high blood pressure can cause an acute hemorrhagic stroke and you may be paralyzed from it, said Fletcher who is also an American Heart Association volunteer. Over time, anywhere from four to 10 years, high blood pressure can lead to an enlarged heart which can cause a heart attack. Thats why early intervention and prevention are so important. When caught early, high blood pressure is highly treatable with diet, exercise and drugs in some cases. How do you get started when you want to control your blood pressure? Try these four simple steps: 1. Dont ignore the risks. Some people dont get inspired to make a change until they see a strove ravage a loved one or they hit a milestone birthday. Dont wait for a tragedy or special occasion because that may be too late. 2. Keep things in check. Check your blood pressure regularly and keep tabs on your cholesterol levels. You can use an at-home blood pressure test, see your doctor, or even go to a local fire station. A simple finger stick can give you a lipid profile for a cholesterol reading. Check out local health fairs offering free screenings. Learn why cholesterol matters and what your BP reading means.

3. Know the high blood pressure risk factors that you can control.You can control whether you live a sedentary or inactive lifestyle, your consumption of alcohol and sodium, smoking habits, diabetes and your weight. You cant control your age, gender or your family history. Take power over the risk factors that you can control and be wary of the ones you cant. Simple changes can make a difference! Use our risk calculator to learn your likelihood of heart attack, stroke, heart failure or kidney disease. 4. Look at your lifestyle. Do you automatically reach for the salt shaker at every meal? Do you frequently eat fast food or in restaurants? Up to 75 percent of the sodium in the average American diet comes from restaurants and processes foods. Learn how you can shake the salt habit. Be sure to follow a healthy diet and get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity per week. It is as easy as a 30 minute walk five times per week! Take it one day at a time and get started! Through risk reduction and treatment of high blood pressure, you can lower your risk for a variety of cardiovascular diseases and live a longer, healthier life. We want to hear from you! What steps have you taken to lower your blood pressure and/or cholesterol?