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High Blood Pressure

What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries during a heartbeat. A blood pressure reading consists of two measurements – systolic and diastolic. Systolic represents the amount of pressure in the heart when the heart
is pumping blood to the body. Diastolic represents the amount of pressure in the heart when it is resting between beats.

What is a “normal” blood pressure reading?
For a healthy heart, blood pressure should be less than 120/80 mmHg (120 is the systolic measurement and 80 is the diastolic measurement in millimeters of mercury). Several factors help determine blood pressure. These factors include the thickness
and amount of blood pumped by the heart, the size of the heart and the condition of the arteries.

What is prehypertension and hypertension?
Elevated blood pressure is classified as either prehypertension or hypertension. Prehypertension is a systolic blood pressure between 120 and 139 mmHg and/or a diastolic blood pressure between 80 and 89 mmHg. Prehypertension may develop into
hypertension and needs to be monitored closely. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg or above and/or diastolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg or above. Heart-healthy lifestyle and dietary choices can delay or prevent blood pressure from becoming elevated.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?
High blood pressure is called a “silent killer” because many people with high blood pressure have no symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. Although some people with early-stage high blood pressure may have dull
headaches, dizzy spells or a few more nosebleeds than normal, these signs typically do not occur until high blood pressure has reached an advanced or even life-threatening level. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be detected easily by having a simple blood
pressure check.

What if my blood pressure is higher than “normal”?
High blood pressure causes the heart to work harder to supply the body with necessary blood and oxygen. Extended periods of increased work by the heart can lead to heart enlargement, resulting in congestive heart failure. It is difficult for an enlarged heart to
supply the body with adequate blood. High blood pressure also causes damage to arteries throughout the body, making the walls of arteries more likely to collect plaque deposits. If high blood pressure is left untreated, it can lead to heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, peripheral vascular disease and damage to the eyes and kidneys.

Heart attack signs:
Call 911 if any of the following occur:

  • Chest, arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach pain/pressure/squeezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Cold sweats
  • Dizziness
  • High salt intake
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Low vitamin D intake
  • Poor management of stress
  • Sleep apnea

Act FAST for stroke signs

Face – Does the face look uneven? Ask the person to smile.
Arms – Does one arm drift down? Ask the person to raise both arms at the same time.
Speech – Does the person’s speech sound slurred or different? Ask him or her to repeat a short phrase.
Time – Time wasted is brain wasted.

What are the risk factors for high blood pressure?

  • Family history A parent or close blood relative with hypertension
  • Race African Americans and Hispanics are at higher risk than Caucasians
  • Age Men between the ages of 35 and 55; women after menopause
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Physical inactivity
  • High salt intake
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Low vitamin D intake
  • Poor management of stress
  • Sleep apnea

How can I lower my risk for high blood pressure?

  • Know your numbers. Speak with your primary care provider (PCP) about your current blood pressure level and goal blood pressure level.
  • Take your medications. Take your blood pressure medications as prescribed by your PCP. These medications work best when taken every day and at about the same time every day.
  • Stop smoking. You can lower your blood pressure if you quit smoking now. Call (502) 629-1234 or speak to your PCP for information about free smoking cessation classes.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Try the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods and portion control. DASH is low in sodium and saturated fat and rich in lean protein, fiber and healthy nutrients like potassium, magnesium and calcium. Some healthy choices are fish, beans, oat bran, orange fruits and dark green vegetables.
  • Decrease the salt in your diet. Although 2,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day is the current limit for otherwise healthy adults, limiting sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day will have a more dramatic effect on blood pressure. Put down the salt shaker and limit processed foods, such as canned soups or frozen dinners.
  • Get moving. Physical activity can help control blood pressure. Heart-stimulating exercises include climbing stairs, brisk walking, swimming, biking and running. At least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity most days of the week is recommended. However, a simple 5- or 10-minute walk is a great way to begin. Slowly increase your level of activity as your body becomes used to the   new routine. Remember: Always consult your PCP before starting a vigorous exercise program.
  • Manage your weight. Losing weight, even as little as 5 pounds, may greatly improve blood pressure. Exercise and a healthy diet are two ways to begin losing weight.
  • Manage your stress. Learn and practice stress-relieving techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, exercise, laughter or enjoying a hobby.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Notify your PCP if you don’t feel rested after a full night’s sleep, you fall asleep easily during the day or if someone tells you that you snore loudly and/or stop breathing while you are asleep. Tests are available at Norton Sleep Centers to diagnose sleep apnea or another sleep disorder.
  • Limit alcohol. Women should not drink more than one drink per day, and men should not drink more than two drinks per day. Excess alcohol may increase blood pressure and risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Stay educated. For up-to-date heart-related information on Norton Sleep Centers, treatment options and physician referrals, call Norton Healthcare’s Contact Center at (502) 629-1234.

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