About 1,000 people die each day from high blood pressure – but it is often not diagnosed until it is too late.
In contrast to regular changes in blood pressure during activity, high blood pressure occurs when blood pressure fails to return to normal. Persistent high blood pressure damages blood vessels and increases the risk of several chronic medical conditions, including coronary artery disease, heart attack, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and stroke.
The thing that makes it so challenging to catch hypertension is that there are often no associated symptoms – just high blood pressure, explained Steven Bohr, DO, board-certified cardiologist at the Heart and Vascular Institute at Hartford Healthcare.
“By the time the symptoms of heart disease or heart failure develop, the damage has already been done,” Dr. Bohr explains. “However, some people may have symptoms if their blood pressure is too high, including headaches, nosebleeds, visual changes, dizziness, palpitations, chest pain or shortness of breath.”
Dr. Bohr emphasizes the importance of regular checkups to make sure your blood pressure is in a healthy range – ideally no more than 130/80. It can be checked at one of your inspections Primary care provider, Including a health screening or automatic blood pressure monitor at home.
Before the age of 40, adults should have their blood pressure checked about once every one to two years. After the age of 40, it should be checked at least once a year, and more frequently if higher readings are noticed.
If your blood pressure is high, there are many ways to solve the problem without medication.
“People who eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, avoid risky substances (such as smoking or heavy alcohol consumption) and maintain a normal body weight are less likely to develop high blood pressure,” said Dr. Bohr. “For example, for every two pounds of weight loss, blood pressure drops by about 1 mmHg. So, if someone loses 10 – 20 pounds, they can lower their blood pressure by 5-10 mmHg, which is like the effect of some drugs.”
To prevent high blood pressure, dietary approaches (also known as DASH) recommend eating a variety of potassium, fiber and protein rich and low sodium and saturated fats, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy foods. Fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oil. Common foods to avoid or reduce include red meat, processed meats (including bacon, sausage, hot dogs and many deli meats), high-processed snack foods (such as donuts and candy bars), and sugary drinks.
Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. Physical activity guidelines for Americans recommend that adults do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, such as brisk walking or cycling, which can lower your blood pressure by another 5 mmHg. Even small amounts of exercise, such as 15 – 30 minutes per week, can provide health benefits.
“When making changes, it’s important to start with very realistic and achievable goals, even if they seem small,” said Dr. Bohr. “Once those goals are achieved, new goals can be set and worked towards. Achieving these small goals will ensure greater success than drastic change at once.”
Dr. Bohrer is currently leading Hartford Healthcare’s new Lifestyle Medicine program, which aims to empower patients to make specific and meaningful lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and improve their overall health. A multi-disciplinary team of providers works closely with patients to evaluate their current lifestyle habits and to address the underlying causes of many common chronic diseases. By working together to identify sustainable changes, patients can move towards a more optimal health.