High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the primary risk factors for cardiovascular disease. It contributes to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and peripheral artery disease (blockages in the legs). Acccording to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, roughly 1 out of 3 adults in the United States has high blood pressure. Many people who have high blood pressure may not know it. Hypertension is often called the "silent killer" because it usually does not cause noticeable symptoms.
Many women are busy with daily responsibilities and are often caregivers for others. But high blood pressure can't wait. Heart disease consistently ranks as the number 1 killer of women. According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the number 3 cause of death in U.S. adults. Importantly, women are more likely to die from a stroke than their male counterparts.
Do You Know Your Blood Pressure?
Do you know what your blood pressure range is? Have you or a medical professional checked it recently? Some simple tips can help you find out if your blood pressure needs to be managed. First, a little bit about what blood pressure is and what readings are normal.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against your artery walls. If this pressure is too high, it can eventually damage those walls, leading to cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and problems with circulation in your legs. Your blood pressure reading consists of two numbers. The first number is the systolic pressure - 120 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) or below is considered normal. The second number, the diastolic pressure, should be 80 mmHg or below for a normal reading.
Now, figure out your typical blood pressure range:
- Buy an enexpensive blood pressure cuff or check your blood pressure at a pharmacy. (You can also ask a medical professional to take your blood pressure reading.)
- Check readings over the course of a week at different times during the day.
- Keep a log.
- Ask yourself these questions:
- What are average blood pressure readings over the week? Are they normal or high?
- When is blood pressure highest during the day? When is it lowest?
- Do the readings warrant a checkup with a doctor? If you are already on blood pressure medication, is your blood pressure within the range you've discussed with your doctor?
Managing Your Blood Pressure
- A combination of lifestyle changes and medication can help you keep your blood pressure under control. Take these steps recommended by the National Institutes of Health:
- Lose extra pounds and keep them off.
- Choose food that are heart healthy.
- Quit smoking.
- Limit your daily salt intake to about 1 teaspoon.
- Be physically active - work up to 30 minutes of brisk walking three to five times a week.
- Limit alcohol: Men should have no more than two serving a day; women should have no more than one serving.
- Take the blood pressure medications your doctor prescribes. Discuss any side effects with your doctor.
Do it for yourself. Do it for the people who love you. In that order.