Nearly half of all Americans have high blood pressure - here are 6 things you can do to reduce your risk
- The American Heart Association just lowered the bar for 'high blood pressure' to 130/80.
- This means nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure.
- There are a few simple things everyone can do to reduce their risk.
High blood pressure is a deadly problem in America.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1,000 US deaths every day include high blood pressure as a "primary or contributing cause." It's a problem for heart attack victims, stroke patients, kidney disease suffers and people with heart failure.
On Monday, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology lowered the bar for what they consider "high blood pressure." Anyone with a reading of 130/80 or higher is now officially in the danger zone. High blood pressure can be tough to diagnose, because there aren't clear warning signs that you've exceeded the normal range (higher than 120/80), other than a cuff reading.
The AHA isn't suggesting that people newly-diagnosed with high blood pressure start popping more prescription pills. Instead, they're hoping the lower threshold will help warn more people that they're at risk for developing dangerous heart conditions before it's too late.
What is high blood pressure?
The more efficiently your body pumps blood out from the heart, the quicker it can supply your muscles with fresh oxygen and nutrients.
When blood pressure is too high, it means that the body is working in overdrive to push blood out through the arteries, putting pressure on the artery walls.
"The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure," according to the Mayo Clinic.
There are a lot of things working against heart health in our modern, sedentary lifestyles, and age and genetics also play a key role in high blood pressure risk.
Here are six of the best ways for everyone to fight the "silent killer," according to experts:
Foods that are low-sodium and high in potassium like fresh fruits and vegetables (think: bananas and avocados) are just a few of the dietary suggestions the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to lower blood pressure.
Being overweight increases your risk for high blood pressure. By shedding pounds, you're increasing blood flow to the brain and reducing strain on your blood vessels. A nice perk for both your body and your mind.
There's a reason distance runners have such low resting heart rates. Being physically active gets your heart in shape. And that means the heart doesn't have to work as hard to pump blood around the body. A win-win.
When a smoker lights up, the nicotine they inhale triggers an immediate blood pressure spike. This spike is only temporary and doesn't correspond with higher blood pressure levels throughout the course of the day.
But there are more long-lasting problems for a smoker's blood vessels. The chemicals in tobacco can cause the arteries to narrow, and damage the lining of artery walls. That can prompt a spike in blood pressure.
If you are going to imbibe, moderation is key. More than three servings of alcohol in one sitting can raise your blood pressure, according to the CDC.
Some studies suggest that a bit of moderate drinking (especially wine) can help lower blood pressure and may also reduce a patient's risk for developing diabetes, but the science on that is still being debated.
Manage your stress
Too much stress can also elevate blood pressure levels.
The only surefire way to know if you've got high blood pressure is to measure it with a cuff. But whether your blood pressure reading is in the safe range or not, these are all tips that can help with living a healthy, balanced life - with a happy heart included.
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