According to the American Heart Association, nearly 2/3 of adults have blood pressure that is higher than normal. Now is a great time to become aware of your blood pressure, and to learn how to reduce or maintain it within a healthy range.
Why does it matter? High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is considered a “silent killer” because it often has no symptoms. Did you know that high blood pressure affects more than just your heart? In addition to increasing your risk for heart disease and heart attack, over time, it can lead to kidney damage, vision loss, peripheral vascular disease, angina, fluid in the lungs, and stroke. The best way to keep these negative consequences away is to keep your blood pressure in check!
How do I find out what my blood pressure is? The only way to know your blood pressure is to have it checked regularly. This can be done at your doctor’s office, at home with a home blood pressure monitor, or in a grocery or drug store that has a free blood pressure monitoring station.
What do the numbers mean? You may have heard that your blood pressure should be 120 over 80, but what does that mean? Blood pressure is the amount of force that your blood exerts on your blood vessels as it travels through your body. The top number (systolic pressure) tells you the amount of force that your blood is exerting when the heart is pumping out blood, while the bottom number (diastolic pressure) is the amount of force your blood is exerting between heart beats. For healthy blood pressure, your top number should be less than 120 mmHg, and your bottom number should be less than 80 mmHg. When it is higher than that, it means that your blood is putting extra pressure on the blood vessels, which can cause complications over time.
What can you do about it? If your numbers are high, gaining control of your blood pressure is as easy as 1-2-3!
- Get moving. Regular exercise is a great way for you to take care of your heart. You may see a reduction in your top number within 1-3 months of starting a consistent exercise regimen.
- Shape up your diet. When it comes to hypertension, it’s important to control the amount of salt in your diet. As a general rule in your body, water follows salt. If you eat too much salt, your body will retain more water. This extra water increases your blood volume, which in turn may increase your blood pressure. Processed foods have a lot of sodium, so be sure to read labels and shoot for less than 2300mg of sodium per day.
Other ways to make your diet more heart healthy include increasing fruits and vegetables, limiting saturated and trans fats, and adding potassium to your day. Foods that are high in potassium can help to mitigate the negative effects of consuming too much sodium and include potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, bananas, and beans.
- Talk with your doctor. Be sure to speak with your doctor about your blood pressure. In addition to exercise and a healthy diet, there are medications that may be prescribed to help regulate your blood pressure.
Here at MANNA, we understand the importance of a heart healthy diet, so all of the meals that we prepare are made without added salt. Our standard meal plan contains around 2300mg of sodium per day, and some of our modified diets contain even less. We understand that everyone has nutritional needs that are as unique as they are, so we have many diet variations to meet a variety of needs.
Cdc.gov. High Blood Pressure Fact Sheet|Data & Statistics|DHDSP|CDC. 2015. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_bloodpressure.htm. Accessed April 27, 2015.
Heart.org. High Blood Pressure or Hypertension. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/High-Blood-Pressure-or- Hypertension_UCM_002020_SubHomePage.jsp. Accessed April 27, 2015.