Heart health is a key component in your overall wellness. It is important to know and understand your blood pressure level and take steps to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, or manage it appropriately to avoid complications. Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, and many may not know they have it.
What is blood pressure?
It is the force of blood against your artery walls as it circulates through your body. While it is normal for blood pressure to fluctuate throughout the day based on situations like stress or physical exertion, it can cause health problems if it remains elevated for prolonged periods. High blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to serious life-threatening conditions including heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and renal disease.
What is considered “high” blood pressure?
There are often no obvious symptoms of hypertension; the only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to get it checked. Free blood pressure screenings are offered at most pharmacies, and your employer may provide worksite screenings through your health plan.
Ideal blood pressure levels are less than 120/80 and are considered “elevated” between 120/80 and 129/89. Levels of 130/90 or higher are considered high or hypertensive. Any readings of 180/120 or higher are considered a “hypertensive crisis,” requiring immediate medical attention.
How can I manage my risk?
Some risk factors are related to your age, gender, ethnicity, and family history. However, you can make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, such as:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Get regular exercise
- Avoid or stop smoking cigarettes
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol
- Practice stress management
Prevention is key, but if you do develop high blood pressure, partnering with your doctor for treatment and management can help you avoid complications.
John E. Aoki, M.D., CHCQM, FABQAURP
Chief Medical Officer
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