To follow up on my last post, I happened upon a new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The numbers were pretty scary. In 2008 (the latest statistics available), hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, impacted 25 percent of American adults – about 60 million people. That’s one in every four people over age 18.
Here’s the problem: hypertension sneaks up on you. It doesn’t have any symptoms. So it does damage to your body without you knowing. It can weaken or scar arteries, damage organs and tissue, increase your risk of blood clots, and put additional stress on your circulatory system. And if it’s not treated, it can kill you.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney failure, according to the American Heart Association. The longer it’s left untreated, the more serious its complications can become. And as the report showed, it’s a real health crisis in the U.S.
- most of the people with high blood pressure were obese, overweight, or morbidly obese (75 percent)
- almost a third of African-American adults reported having high blood pressure (32 percent); 27 percent of whites and 18 percent of Hispanics reported having this condition
- the incidence rose with age – more than half of seniors (65+) have hypertension, compared with a third of people 45-64 and 10 percent of those 25-44.
High blood pressure is controllable through diet, exercise, and if needed, medication. The Heart Association found that with regular exercise (30 minutes or more, at least three times per week) the risk of hypertension drops by a third compared to a sedentary lifestyle. Living healthy is critical to prevention and management of high blood pressure. While you can’t control heredity factors, there are a number of things you can do, right now, to take charge of your blood pressure:
- Eat a healthy diet, which may include reducing salt
- Get regular physical activity
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Manage stress
- Avoid tobacco smoke
- Understand hot tub safety
- Comply with medication prescriptions
- If you drink, limit alcohol
Don’t take life-or-death chances with this disease – managing your blood pressure is a lifelong commitment. But it’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative.