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High Blood Pressure: Get the Facts

Article and audio introduction by Samantha Kennedy, Family and Consumer Sciences

In honor of American Heart Month, I wanted to share a few facts about high blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, nearly 78 million people in the United States has high blood pressure (also known as hypertension). That is about 1 in 3 people!

Why is this significant? Well, high blood pressure is one of the most important factors in overall heart health.  Chronic high blood pressure can damage both the heart and blood vessels and can lead to catastrophic events such as stroke and heart attack.

What is considered high blood pressure? Any reading where the top number is over 130 or the bottom number is over 80. The top number is called the systolic blood pressure, which is the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart contracts (beats). The bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure, which is the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is at rest (between beats).

There are varying degrees of high blood pressure: normal, elevated, stage 1, stage 2, and what is called hypertensive crisis, which is when the blood pressure reading is high to a very dangerous level. It is important for overall heart health to consult a physician and to take steps to lower high blood pressure.

a variety of fruit and veggies can help reduce high blood pressure

Eating a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables is part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. (Photo source: Lyon Duong, UF/IFAS)

Here are a few facts about high blood pressure from the American Heart Association:

Having a family history of high blood pressure does not mean getting it is inevitable. With the proper lifestyle practices such as a healthy diet and exercise, many people with a family history of hypertension never suffer from it themselves.

Simply avoiding table salt is not enough to control sodium intake. Sodium is a contributing factor to high blood pressure. It is also present in more than just table salt. While limiting the amount of added salt at the dinner table is a good practice, it is also important to check the labels of processed foods for any hidden sodium.

Kosher salt and sea salt are not healthier alternatives to table salt. Both kosher and sea salt contain the same amount of sodium as table salt and therefore have the same effect on blood pressure as table salt. It is important to limit the additional use of all three types of salt whenever possible.

High blood pressure occurs without any noticeable symptoms.  It is called “the silent killer” because many people suffer the consequences of chronic high blood pressure without ever realizing they have it. They feel fine, but all along their arteries, heart, and other organs have been damaged by hypertension.

Do not rely only on the doctor to monitor high blood pressure. It is important to keep a daily log of blood pressure readings at home on your own. This long-term record can provide important information to the doctor who can help create an effective treatment plan, which may include medications.

High blood pressure can be a lifelong disease and if it goes untreated or uncontrolled, can lead to severe consequences. It is important to maintain a healthy blood pressure by practicing healthy lifestyle practices such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and properly taking appropriate medications if needed.

For more information about high blood pressure and healthy lifestyle practices, please call Samantha Kennedy, Family and Consumer Sciences agent, at (850) 926-3931.

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