When your heart beats, it pumps blood through your body to give it the energy and oxygen it needs. As the blood moves, it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels. The strength of this pushing is your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your arteries – and your heart, which may lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Why is it important to worry about high blood pressure?
- It's VERY common. About 46 percent of Americans have high blood pressure.
- It's dangerous. High blood pressure is one of the most important risk factors for heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and diabetes complications — contributing to nearly 1,000 deaths a day.
- It's undertreated. While effective treatments have been available for more than 50 years, fewer than half of Americans with high blood pressure have their condition under control.
More than 1 in 3 people with high blood pressure don't even know they have it. That's why this potentially life-threatening disease is sometimes referred to as the "silent killer."
How is high blood pressure diagnosed?
Before diagnosing high blood pressure, your healthcare providers will check — and recheck — your blood pressure. They'll also ask questions about your personal and family health history, check your weight, and possibly do some lab tests. Part of the reason for these tests is to find out if another condition is causing your high blood pressure — or if your high blood pressure is leading to other problems (such as heart disease or kidney disease).
Your doctor may also ask you to take and record your own blood pressure at home. This can help establish your normal blood pressure pattern.
What causes high blood pressure?
Risk factors you CAN'T change:
- Family history – high blood pressure tends to run in the family.
- Age – generally, the older you get, the greater chance you have of getting high blood pressure. Most common ages are 35-50 for men, and women, after menopause.
- Race – If you're of African American descent, your risk of high blood pressure is much higher.
Risk factors you CAN change:
- Inactivity – People who are not active have a 20 to 50 percent increased risk.
- Being overweight – Excess weight gain adds extra stress to the heart and arteries.
- Poor diet – Eating too much salt, drinking too much alcohol, and poor eating habits can also increase your risk of high blood pressure.
- Stress – Bodies respond to stress by raising blood pressure; unmanaged and ongoing stress will keep blood pressure high.
- Smoking – Each time you smoke a cigarette, it causes an immediate and significant rise in blood pressure.
It's all about lifestyle change
If you've been told you have high blood pressure, don't be discouraged. You and your care provider can work through it. Often lifestyle changes can make a big difference. You can follow this simple name: MAWDS
M – Take your medication: Make your medication part of your routine, and don't stop taking medication just because your blood pressure is ok. It probably just means its working!
A – Stay active each day: shoot for 30 minutes, five days each week, or 150 minutes throughout your week.
W – Manage a healthy weight: Make changes to your diet and activity level – even a small amount will help!
D – Eat a healthy diet: Start by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet.
S – Stop smoking and manage stress.
You have more control over high blood pressure than you think. Work with your care provider to find a nutrition, exercise, and care plan that will work for you - then reap the rewards of healthy living.
As part of National Heart Awareness month in February, Intermountain Healthcare is offering a series of "Love Your Heart" heart-healthy classes at hospitals across the state. Here is the schedule:
McKay Dee Hospital – Ogden
- Living a Heart-healthy Life: Tues, Feb. 5, 11 a.m., the Dee Auditorium
- A-Fib: From Diagnosis to Management: Tues, Feb. 12, 11 a.m., the Dee Auditorium
- Supplements, Vitamins and Herbals: The Truth about What is Lurking in Your Medicine Cabinet: Wed, Feb. 20, 11 a.m., the Dee Auditorium
- Eating Heart Healthy: Wed, Feb. 27, 11 a.m., the Dee Auditorium
Intermountain Medical Center – Murray
- Women & Heart Disease: Tues, Feb. 5, 7 p.m., West Auditorium-Doty Education Center
- Ways to Prevent Heart Failure: A Panel Discussion, Tues, Feb. 12, 7 p.m., West Auditorium- Doty Education Center
- Stroke: Time is Brain. What to Know and What to Do to Reduce Your Risk: Tues, Feb. 19, 7 p.m., LL1 lobby of Heart & Lung Building
- Healthy Cooking Techniques, Wed, Feb. 27, 7 p.m., West Auditorium-Doty Education Center
Dixie Regional Medical Center
- Advances in Cardiac Imaging (PET/CT): Thurs, Feb. 7, 4 to 5 p.m., SelectHealth Auditorium
- Advances in Heart Valve Treatment: Thur, Feb. 14, 4 to 5 p.m., SelectHealth Auditorium
- Vascular Health, Thursday, Feb. 21, 4 to 5 p.m., SelectHealth Auditorium
- Women's Heart Health, Thurs, Feb. 28, 4 to 5 p.m., SelectHealth Auditorium
If you have further questions, join Intermountain Healthcare experts on Tuesday, February 12 as they discuss ways to improve your heart health on the KUTV and Intermountain Healthcare's Ask the Expert. Tips and suggestions will be offered throughout the day on Channel 2, with nurses, doctors, and other medical experts providing interviews during news and other broadcasts.
If you have questions, a panel of experts will be answering your phone calls from noon to 5:30 p.m. at 877-908-0680. You can also submit questions via Facebook and Twitter using #kutvasktheexpert.
For more information visit intermountainhealthcare.org/asktheexpert.