High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects nearly half of U.S. adults.
But here’s the alarming part: about 1 in 5 adults don't know
they have it.
“Yet when high blood pressure is left unchecked, the risk for heart
attack, stroke, heart failure, eye disease and kidney disease skyrockets,”
Yogitha Potini, MD, MPH, said to a crowd of nearly 200 people during free health lecture held in
Boulder. “The good news is that making simple changes can go a long
way in lowering your blood pressure and preventing complications.”
Watch a recording of Dr. Potini’s lectureon "Lowering Your Blood Pressure."
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood pushing on the walls
of the arteries. It's made up of two numbers:
- Systolic (top number) - pressure in the arteries during heartbeats
- Diastolic (bottom number) - pressure in the arteries between heartbeats
Here’s how blood pressure is classified:
Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg.
Elevated blood pressure (pre-hypertension) is when your blood pressure ranges between 121-129/81-89 mm Hg. Pre-hypertension
puts you at risk for full-blown hypertension.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is when your blood pressure is 130/90 mm Hg or higher.
“These numbers might be different from what you’ve heard in
the past. Previous guidelines told us that 140 over 90 was considered
high blood pressure for the general population, and 150 over 90 for those
60 years or older,” Dr. Potini stated. “But new evidence shows
that there are lower rates of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events
if we control blood pressure a little bit tighter.”
Make These 6 Lifestyle Changes
If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you might be worried
about taking medication to bring your numbers down. Know that if you can
successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you
might avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication.
Dr. Potini explained that there are six lifestyle changes you can make:
1. Follow the DASH diet. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is designed to
treat or prevent high blood pressure. “This diet has proven to help
people lower their systolic blood pressure by 10 to 11 points,”
said Dr. Potini.
The DASH diet:
- Includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Limits food high in saturated and trans fats fat such as fatty meats, full-fat
dairy products and tropical oils (for example, coconut, palm kernel and
- Emphasizes fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts
and vegetable oils.
Limits sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.
DASH eating plan.
2. Reduce sodium in your diet. In addition to the DASH diet, Dr. Potini recommended limiting your salt
intake to 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. However to obtain the
most benefit, limit sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day.
“A typical American diet is about 3,400 mg of sodium a day, giving
you an idea of how much to reduce your salt intake,” Dr. Potini
said. “Try to avoid canned foods and, if you do consume canned foods,
rinse whatever is in the can to get some of the sodium out. Don’t
use salt to flavor your food. Try garlic powder instead. Also, try to
avoid cold, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, deli meats and packaged white
breads, which all tend to have a lot of sodium.”
3. Enjoy regular exercise. Every week, try to get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity —
such as brisk walking, swimming or mowing the lawn — or 75 minutes
of vigorous activity such as running and aerobic dancing. Dr. Potini said
that “strength training twice a week and reducing sitting time can
also lower your blood pressure.”
4. Lose extra pounds. Studies show that for every 2.2 pounds you lose, you can decrease your
systolic blood pressure by about 1 point (mm HG), according to Dr. Potini.
5. Limit alcohol use. Too much alcohol can contribute to high blood pressure. Dr. Potini said
men should have no more than two drinks per day, and one drink per day
6. Avoid smoking. Cigarette smoking increases blood pressure.
To make an appointment with Dr. Potini, call Internal Medicine Associates
of Boulder at
PowerPoint slides from her free health lecture on “Lowering your blood pressure.”
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