High Blood Pressure is More than a Numbers Game

Tuesday, May 09, 2017 | 11:12am

May is High Blood Pressure Education Month

NASHVILLE – Your heart powers your life. It will beat almost three billion times and pump about 42 million gallons of blood through your body during your lifetime. Your heart allows you to love, laugh and live your life to the fullest. It works nonstop to take care of you and you should take care of it. May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month and the Tennessee Department of Health wants adults to get to know their blood pressure numbers and how to keep them healthy.

“High blood pressure is often a silent and slow killer. It can shorten our own lives and since it often runs in families, our kids and grandkids can be at risk too, a risk that our awareness, good example and encouragement can reduce or even eliminate entirely,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH.

"The only way to know if we have high blood pressure is to check it and have our health care team explain to us what our numbers mean and what we can do about it,” Dreyzehner continued. “If it's high, it can be treated with diet, exercise and medication, and we can tell the kids and get after them. They won't want to hear it, but if we lead by example and encourage them, we can add good years to their lives as well as our own."

These simple actions can help lower your risk of high blood pressure:

• Quit nicotine use and stay away from secondhand smoke. Get free help to quit smoking from the Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visiting www.tnquitline.org

• Limit your salt intake every day

• Get active every day

• Get to and maintain a healthy weight

• Avoid alcohol and drug use

• Control your cholesterol levels

• Eat a healthy diet every day. Talk with your health care provider about an eating plan that’s right for you. One to consider is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH diet.

• If your health care provider prescribes high blood pressure medication, take it as directed and discuss any issues with your provider.

“You can choose to make simple, healthy lifestyle changes to lower your risk of developing high blood pressure,” said TDH Assistant Commissioner for Family Health and Wellness Morgan McDonald, MD. “Taking charge of what you eat and increasing physical activity help prevent high blood pressure and are key parts of treating it.”

A blood pressure reading includes two numbers. So what do they mean? Systolic blood pressure, the top number, is a measure of the force or pressure created in the blood vessels when your heart beats and pushes blood through the arteries to the rest of your body. Diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number, is a measure of pressure in your arteries when the heart rests between beats and the heart fills with blood.

The American Heart Association defines normal blood pressure as less than 120 over 80 and recommends adults begin regular blood pressure screenings starting at age 20. Having your blood pressure measured is quick and painless. Talk with your health care provider about your results.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three Americans, or 23 percent of adults have been diagnosed high blood pressure. In Tennessee, 38.5 percent of adults have high blood pressure.

Certain traits, conditions, behaviors and habits can raise your risk of having high blood pressure. The more of these risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop high blood pressure. Risk factors include:

• Age - the older you get, the higher your risk for high blood pressure

• Race - high blood pressure is more common in African Americans

• Family history of high blood pressure

• Using tobacco or nicotine-containing products including electronic cigarettes

• Eating too much sodium (salt)

• Not getting enough physical activity

• Being obese or overweight

• Drinking too much alcohol, using illegal drugs or misusing prescription medications

• Having high cholesterol levels

• Not eating healthy foods

May is National High Blood Pressure Education month. TDH encourages everyone to take control of their heart health every day and supports the Million Hearts™ Campaign which is dedicated to preventing high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke and empowering everyone to make heart-healthy choices. Learn more at https://millionhearts.hhs.gov.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at www.tn.gov/health