The Union Recorder

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May 20, 2014

ORMC: Measure up, pressure down

MILLEDGEVILLE — May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. High blood pressure, or hypertension, means that the force of blood pushing through your body is too strong. That pressure puts a strain on your arteries. High blood pressure can lead to stroke or heart disease, two of America’s top causes of death.

Some states and regions show higher rates of high blood pressure, but in the end, it’s everyone’s concern. Nearly one in three Americans has this condition, and approximately 20 percent are unaware they even have the disease.

Be informed about your risk factors.

High blood pressure often shows no signs or symptoms. That’s why it’s important to know what your risks are and to learn which factors you can and can’t control.

Some risk factors - like age, gender, race or ethnicity - may cause you to be more at risk for the disease than others.

Remember, having risk factors does not mean you are destined to have the disease. Some are in your control - like being active and eating healthy.

You don’t need to give up all the foods you like - just fine-tune to get less salt and harmful fats.

Too much salt in your diet makes your body hold on to more water, which raises your blood pressure and puts strain on your heart and kidneys. Salt can show up where you don’t expect it. Nearly half of the sodium we consume comes from 10 food categories: bread and rolls, cold cuts/cured meats, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta mixed dishes, meat mixed dishes and savory snacks.

A diet high in harmful fats can play a role in developing heart disease or raising blood pressure. Full flavor without all the fat is possible. Saturated and trans fats are two types of dangerous fats found in commercial baked goods (cookies and crackers) and animal products (red meat and dairy products like whole-milk, cheese, sour cream, butter and ice cream).

Let’s get moving.

People who are inactive tend to have higher heart rates.

The higher your heart rate, the harder your heart must work - and the higher your blood pressure goes.

Lack of physical activity also increases your risk of being overweight, which can lead to higher blood pressure.

It takes only 30 minutes of physical activity a day to lower blood pressure. That’s the same amount of time it takes to watch your favorite sitcom, catch up with a friend or family member on the phone, or drive to the store and back.

So track every minute you move:

Incorporate activity into your daily life. Start with small steps, like parking farther from the store, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, playing actively with your kids, or going for a walk around the block at lunch. Oconee Regional Medical Center has a community walking track that is lit and open 24 hours a day. Our community is encouraged to utilize this asset to stay active!  

Free or low-cost activity tracking via computer or phone keeps your activity total at your fingertips. Try the American Heart Association’s Heart360 tool or download the Withings Health Mate app to stay on top of your fitness.

Mark a wall chart with activity minutes so your family sees that your health is a priority.

You’re dealing with a potential killer. This is not the time to be the strong, silent type. Share any questions and concerns with your doctor.

Changes in your blood pressure can hint at a bigger problem that your provider can help you understand and fix.

Medication side effects can be serious and interfere with your treatment.

Other health conditions can make high blood pressure worse.

Prepare a list of questions for your provider so that you can make the most of your time and get the answers you need to improve your blood pressure and health at your next appointment.

What is my blood pressure reading today?

What is my goal blood pressure?

How can I better manage my blood pressure?

What is the name of my blood pressure medication?

How often and when should I take it?

What are the side effects of this medication?

What do I need to know about my blood pressure medication?

It’s especially important for African-Americans to pay attention to blood pressure.

African-American adults have higher rates of early death from causes related to high blood pressure. They may develop high blood pressure at a younger age and may find their high blood pressure is harder to control. African Americans who attend places of worship tend to live longer and have happier, healthier lives, according to research cited by the Association of Black Cardiologists.

Take your medication as prescribed.

Blood pressure medications only work when you take them as your provider tells you. Once started, they should begin to work within days. Do not stop until your provider tells you to stop.

Take your medication every day at the same time. It’s just as important to take your prescription on days when you’re feeling good as it is on days when you’re not.

Put reminders where you (or others) will see them. In the kitchen, at the office, on your computer - make it so you can’t miss it. Plan ahead for your refills so you don’t skip any medicine. Your pharmacy may even offer a 90-day prescription that costs less. Get a buddy and remind each other.

Unmanaged stress affects your mind and body and even has lasting impact on your health and well-being.

High levels of stress can lead to temporary, but dramatic increases in blood pressure.

Continued stress can keep your blood pressure high and lead to further heart problems.

Know what triggers in your life make stress worse - perhaps overeating, alcohol, tobacco, worrying, or lack of sleep - and avoid them as much as possible.

Create your own personal stress-busters like laughter, time spent in nature, enough sleep, pets, meditation, listening to music, and counting to 10. All are good ways to lower stress.

Watch your alcohol intake.

Over time, heavy drinking can damage your heart and raise your blood pressure.

Alcohol can keep your blood pressure medication from working well.

Calories in alcohol can cause weight gain - another high blood pressure risk factor.

Stop smoking and tobacco use.

Every cigarette, cigar, or chew raises your blood pressure - and keeps it high for up to an hour afterward.

The chemicals in tobacco damage artery walls, making them narrower and causing your heart to work harder.

Secondhand smoke can raise your friends’ and family’s blood pressure, too.

Oconee Regional Medical Center offers FREE Smoking Cessation classes. Call 478-454-3705 to find out the next class date.

High blood pressure can worsen other lifetime conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes and kidney disease.

Lifelong conditions and problems that keep coming back, like diabetes, kidney disease and high cholesterol can all increase your risk for high blood pressure.

High blood pressure puts a strain on all your organs.

Controlling and managing high blood pressure is a personal journey.

Measure Up/Pressure Down™ has gathered the best tips from the largest and most respected medical groups across the nation - and you can start putting these into practice right away. You’ll find even more easy-to-use guidance and information at MeasureUpPressureDown.com.

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