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Hypertension

Hypertension is the term used to describe high blood pressure. Hypertension is the most common cardiovascular disease. When blood pressure is too high, the heart has to work harder. High blood pressure causes strokes and heart attacks and can damage blood vessels, the brain, eyes, and kidneys.

People with blood pressure readings of 140/90 or higher, taken at least two different times, are said to have high blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is lower than 120/80 in adults.


What is Pre-Hypertension?

Pre-hypertension is a warning sign you may get hypertension in the future. People with blood pressure readings slightly higher than 120/80 have pre-hypertension. Those with pre-hypertension are at higher risk for damage to arteries and the heart, brain and kidneys. The only treatment for pre-hypertension is diet and exercise.

Hypertension Prevention

The good news is that you can prevent hypertension or reverse pre-hypertension. Improving your diet and being more active can help you manage pre-hypertension.

Reducing hypertension risk

    • Lose weight if you are overweight. If you are overweight and have pre-hypertension, modest weight loss can prevent hypertension.
    • Exercise regularly. Aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, can help to lower blood pressure. Studies suggest aerobic exercise can have a greater impact on blood pressure than other types of non-medical therapy. Exercise can help blood vessels function better by widening them.
    • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and low-fat dairy. The DASH diet can help lower or prevent high blood pressure.
    • Eat less salt. A low sodium diet can prevent high blood pressure. Aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day (about 1 teaspoon of table salt). Read Nutrition Facts Labels for sodium content of packaged, processed foods. Some groups should limit sodium to less than 1,500 milligrams per day.
    • Eat foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. These foods can provide excess calories and may lead to obesity and heart disease.
    • Drink alcohol in moderation. Excess alcohol can increase blood pressure. Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day for men, and one drink a day for women.

High blood pressure risk factors

Experts do not know exactly what causes high blood pressure for most people, but certain risk factors are linked to the condition. Some people are at increased risk for high blood pressure.

These factors increase high blood pressure risk:

    • A family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes
    • Age over 55
    • Excess body weight
    • Physical inactivity
    • Excessive alcohol use
    • Smoking
    • Diet high in saturated fat or salt

For more information on healthy living and hypertension, contact your local county extension office.