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Blood Pressure: what you don’t know can hurt you!

Kevin Popa, Pharm D

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Jan 31st, 2015

Blood Pressure

February is National Heart Health Month and is a great time to check your blood pressure and help screen for heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men, and approximately 600,000 people die from heart disease every year in the United States. Coronary heart disease alone costs the United States $109 billion each year according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

About half of all Americans have at least one risk factor that contributes to heart disease. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Regular blood pressure checks at home, at the pharmacy, or with a physician are important for monitoring high blood pressure.  Blood pressure is considered normal if the reading is less than 120/80. High blood pressure or hypertension is a blood pressure reading of greater than 140/90. Numbers in-between are considered pre-hypertensive. Blood pressure goals may vary based on age and other risk factors.

Monitoring blood pressure is important since high blood pressure often has no symptoms and is referred to as the ‘silent killer’ for that reason. Periodic blood pressure checks can help identify high blood pressure before it becomes a chronic issue. Here are some ways suggested by the CDC that you can take a preventative approach to high blood pressure and heart disease:

o   Choose foods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol but high in fiber (i.e. fresh fruits and vegetables).

o   Limit salt or sodium which can also help lower blood pressure.

o   Being overweight can increase the risk for heart disease. Finding ways to lose weight can not only help lower your blood pressure, but also reduce risk for heart disease.

o    It is recommended that adults engage in two and a half hours of moderate intensity exercise (i.e. a brisk 30 minute walk 5 days a week) every week.

o   Quitting smoking may lower your risk for heart disease.

o   Drinking too much alcohol can cause high blood pressure and increase the risk for heart disease.

By taking steps to lower your blood pressure, you can reduce your risk for stroke and heart disease. Lowering your blood pressure through diet, exercise, and medications can help you live a longer, healthier life. Talk to your local pharmacist to learn more about how you can make smart decisions to protect your heart.

http://millionhearts.hhs.gov/Docs/MH_SMBP.pdf

http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/measure.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/family_history.htm

http://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/health-conditions-and-diseases/heart-health

Heidenreich PA, Trogdon JG, Khavjou OA, et al. Forecasting the future of cardiovascular disease in the United States: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2011;123:933-44. Epub 2011 Jan 24.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Self-Measured Blood Pressure Monitoring: Action Steps for Public Health Practitioners. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2013.

 

Author: Kevin Popa, Pharm D. Community Pharmacy Resident with Jewel-Osco Pharmacy and Midwestern University.

 

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