By 2nd Lt. Marie Denson
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
May is National High Blood Pressure Month. About one in three U.S. adults has HBP and even children can fall victim to the condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
HBP is a common condition where the force of blood against the artery walls is high enough that it can cause health related problems.
The National Institutes of Health suggests that African Americans, obese, stressed or anxious people, diabetics, those who have a family history of HBP, smokers and those who consume too much salt are at a higher risk of HBP.
High blood pressure is called the silent killer because typically there are no symptoms. That is why it is important to get checked regularly. Without proper treatment, HBP can damage the heart, blood vessels and kidneys, and can cause heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and other health related problems.
The Schriever Main Fitness Center has a blood pressure machine that can perform a BP test in minutes. Also, BP is checked at the beginning of a doctor’s visit. Typically, BP should be checked at least once every two years after the age of 18 and more often if BP has been high in the past.
A BP test provides two numbers; such as 120 over 80. But what exactly does this mean?
The NIH explains that the two numbers represent systolic pressure, where the heart beats while pumping blood, and diastolic pressure, when the heart is at rest between beats. A normal BP is less than 120 for systolic and 80 for diastolic. HBP becomes a concern when numbers such as 140 over 90 are seen.
Anything between 120/80 and 140/90 is called prehypertension, where a person’s BP is elevated above normal but not high enough to be considered high blood pressure. Precautionary steps can be taken to prevent prehypertension and ultimately HBP.
HBP and prehypertension can be lowered by doing some of the preventative measures suggested by Familydoctor.org. Maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise and even reducing a small amount of weight can lower the chance of getting HBP. Eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and reducing sodium intake, alcohol, caffeine and stress can also help. Many medications prescribed by a health care provider can also be used to treat HBP if necessary.
“The first step in managing your blood pressure is to know what your numbers are,” said Patricia McNab, Memorial Health System’s clinical manager of non-invasive cardiology. “See your primary care provider regularly, limit your salt intake and get plenty of exercise. Although prevention is the best plan, if you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, partner with your health care provider to manage your medications, diet and activity. Don’t let high blood pressure sneak up on you. Take charge of your health.”