Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is medically defined as having a blood pressure of 140/90 or higher. Blood Pressure is the amount of blood that is forced against artery walls when the heart contracts. Millions of Americans are diagnosed each year and must rely on antihypertensive medications to help lower further complications of the disease. In most cases, the exact cause of hypertension is not known, however it has been shown that the incidence does increase with age. One known cause of high blood pressure is kidney dysfunction. When the kidneys can no longer regulate fluids in your body properly and things become imbalanced this can cause a rise in blood pressure. Hypertension can be very dangerous if not controlled properly as it makes the heart work harder to pump blood throughout the body. If the heart is unable to pump sufficient amounts of blood to vital organs, such as the brain or heart, individuals can suffer heart failure or stroke.
Certain risk factors for high blood pressure are controllable and some are not. Factors such as age and family history cannot be controlled. Other risk factors that you can control to help decrease your risk of hypertension are: smoking cessation, eating foods that are lower in salt, sugar and fat, and maintaining an active lifestyle. Aerobic activity increases the capacity of the body to deliver oxygen to the muscles, including the heart (which is a muscle). Exercise also affects the heart and blood vessels in ways that reduce resistance to blood flow, which reduces blood pressure. Reduce your risk today by make these small simple steps.
- Increase your knowledge, talk with your health care provider or take a class at your local extension office.
- Improve your diet, make half your plate vegetables and fruit, and limit added salt.
- Increase your daily amounts of physical activity, aiming for at least 30 min 5 days per week.
By Jana Griffin, Extension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences