15 Facts You Need to Know for Blood Pressure Awareness Month

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May 8th, 2011

Do you know your blood pressure? When was the last time you had it checked? In honor of Blood Pressure Awareness Month, there’s no better time than now to get your blood pressure checked and learn a bit more about what your levels mean for your overall health. Read through these facts to get a quick education on blood pressure and learn why it’s essential to keep yours within a healthy range to ensure you have a long and active life. It will also help educate those around you on the best health care practices for a happy heart

  1. High blood pressure affects about 50 million Americans and 1 billion people worldwide. This means that one in three adults or 31% of the population will be affected by the condition. In order to avoid becoming part of this statistic, start learning some ways to better monitor and lower your blood pressure today.
  2. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. Ever wondered just what blood pressure is? It’s pretty simple and just measures the force of blood pumping through your body. Blood pressure is highest near your heart and in the major arteries and lowest in small arteries and capillaries. Because it can vary throughout your body, blood pressure is taken in a standardized place, usually on the inside of your upper arm along the brachial artery.
  3. People who have normal blood pressure at 55 years of age have a 90% risk of developing high blood pressure in their lifetime. Even if your blood pressure is fine now, it doesn’t mean that it will always be the case. As you age, your risk of developing high blood pressure goes up exponentially, and older adults need to keep a much closer watch on blood pressure to ensure it stays within healthy ranges.
  4. Blood pressure is found by measuring the pressure in the blood vessels during a heartbeat and when the heart is at rest. You might have noticed that blood pressure is recorded with not one, but two numbers. The upper number, systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart pumps blood throughout the body; the lower number, diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure in the arteries when the heart is relaxing. Healthy blood pressure should be 120/80 or lower.
  5. Sodium can have a big impact on blood pressure. Are you paying attention to how much salt you eat every day? If not, you should be. Increased levels of sodium in the body are directly correlated with increased blood pressure levels. Some individuals have a greater response to salt levels than others, but in most cases, lowering the sodium in a diet can substantially lower blood pressure.
  6. High blood pressure can lead to a number of serious conditions, including coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and kidney failure. These are some of the leading causes of death in the US, so they’re nothing to scoff at if you have HBP. In the short term, elevated blood pressure levels can make you tired, give you headaches, cause vision problems and give you an upset stomach– none of which are pleasant.
  7. All blood pressure levels above 120/80 increase your risk for health problems related to high blood pressure. When the systolic pressure is greater than 120 and the diastolic pressure is greater than 80, patients are diagnosed as having high blood pressure. These levels have recently been lowered from 140/90, so if were in the clear in the past, you may want to reevaluate your blood pressure and your lifestyle to stay healthy.
  8. The ranges for normal blood pressure in children and teens are different. Because they are smaller and their hearts and vascular systems may be functioning a little differently from adults, different levels are needed for children and adolescents when measuring healthy blood pressure. Check with your doctor if you’re concerned your child may have a high blood pressure issue.
  9. Simple changes in diet and lifestyle, as well as a number of medications, can help you maintain or reach a healthy blood pressure level. About 70% of those with high blood pressure who took medication had their high blood pressure controlled or lowered. If you do not want to take medication, losing weight, exercising, eating a healthy diet, reducing sodium, caffeine and alcohol intake and quitting smoking can all help lower high blood pressure.
  10. High blood pressure is more common in older adults and more prevalent among African-Americans. Four out of 10 African-Americans have high blood pressure, and the chance of developing high blood pressure as you age is fairly high. If you are in either of these groups, it’s important to talk to your doctor about what you can do to lower your risk and get your blood pressure under control.
  11. Blood pressure that is below normal readings is called hypotension. It is possible for blood pressure to be too low. This condition is called hypotension and can result in a decrease in the amount of blood being pumped to the brain resulting in lightheadedness, dizziness, weakness and fainting. Extremely low blood pressure can be a sign of a severe cardiac disease and should be taken just as seriously as high blood pressure.
  12. High blood pressure itself usually has no symptoms. That is why it is often called the silent killer. Since there is often no way to tell that you have HBP, you should visit your doctor’s office to get regular checkups.
  13. In 2010, high blood pressure will cost the United States $76.6 billion in health care services, medications and missed days of work. The health care impact of so many adults having high blood pressure is monumental. Those who do not have full health care coverage or none at all can be left to bear many of these costs out of pocket, so preventative care is essential.
  14. Twenty-five percent of American adults has prehypertension– blood pressure numbers that are higher than normal, but not yet in the high blood pressure range. Prehypertension raises your risk for high blood pressure and could be a sign that you need to take a hard look at your lifestyle and health choices.
  15. In patients who are older than 50 years of age, controlling systolic blood pressure is more important than controlling diastolic blood pressure. Why is this the case? Because systolic blood pressure is directly linked to the risk of heart disease, one of the leading causes of death for adults in the US.

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