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Armed with knowledge: Fight the silent killer

May is Hypertension Awareness Month. Did you know the American Heart Association reports one in three Americans over the age of 20 has hypertension, also known as high blood pressure?

By the time we reach our 50s the odds are 50/50 that we will have high blood pressure. There is no other condition as prevalent in the United States.

After reading this, you may be asking how you would know if you have hypertension. It is not unusual to have hypertension and experience no symptoms at all. Hypertension is known as the “Silent Killer.” That is why it is so important to have your blood pressure checked regularly by a health care provider. Checks on blood pressure should be done while a person is calm and rested from activity.

Health care professionals often talk about risk factors. A risk factor is something that makes a person more likely to have a particular health condition. Hypertension has several known risk factors.

There are risk factors that cannot be controlled. Aging is one of these risk factors. The older one is, the more likely they are to develop high blood pressure. Those individuals with a family history of hypertension and of African American or Hispanic descent are also more likely to develop hypertension than those of Caucasian or Asian descent.

There are lifestyle habits that also have an impact on your blood pressure. These are habits you have control over. These controllable risk factors are smoking, drinking more than one to two servings of alcohol a day, being physically inactive, eating foods that are salty or heavily preserved as well as living a stressful, pressured life.

It is also recognized that caffeine will raise blood pressure significantly. Americans love their coffee and energy drinks, but are seeing the effects in their blood pressure readings. Many of the over the counter cold preparations raise blood pressure readings while taking the medicine. Care should be used when using these medications.

Being overweight or obese also increases the likelihood of high blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy weight will help control blood pressure readings.

So you see — you can have an impact on the development of blood pressure by the way you chose to live your life.

Hypertension, once recognized, is typically easy to manage and control with diet, exercise and/or medication. A diet low in sodium and a daily moderate exercise routine will reap rewards in controlling blood pressure.

If you have medicine prescribed, it is important to take it daily without exception. Medicines for lowering blood pressures typically have few, if any, side effects. Most people feel better taking their medication and controlling their blood pressure. These measures will help to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure leads to serious and debilitating illnesses. Hypertension precedes such conditions as stroke and kidney failure.

Most individuals who have suffered a heart attack have had either known or unknown hypertension.

High blood pressure will damage the smallest of blood vessels in your body. These vessels are found in heart, kidneys and eyes. These vessel changes in the eyes will cause a loss of vision.
So, have your blood pressure checked regularly, control your risk factors and stay healthy.
More information is available online at the American Heart Association website- www.heart.org

Brenda Mosher is a family nurse practitioner working in primary care with an interest in disease prevention and wellness. Center Stage is written by friends of the Senior Center for the Sheridan Community. It is a collection of insights and stories related to living well at every age.


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