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February is American Heart Health Month!

One way we can keep our hearts healthy is by monitoring and controlling our blood pressure.

Blood pressure can be defined as, “the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries that carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body”. It is normal for our blood pressure to rise and fall throughout the day, but blood pressure that remains high for a long amount of time can cause damage to our bodies, and puts a person at a higher risk for stroke and heart disease.

 

Who is at risk for a higher blood pressure?

Some individuals are at higher risk of developing high blood pressure. Risk factors include aging, family history, being of African American race, and unhealthy life style behaviors including smoking, drinking alcohol, being overweight, physical inactivity and eating foods high in sodium.

 

How do I know if I have high blood pressure?

A healthy blood pressure is considered a blood pressure reading lower than 120 for the top number (systolic) and lower than 80 for the bottom number (diastolic).  A reading above 140 (systolic) or 90 (diastolic) is considered hypertension, or dangerously high blood pressure, and may require medication.

 Try to see your doctor at least once a year for an annual exam and have your blood pressure checked. If you are unable to see your doctor annually, you can check your blood pressure at pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS for free.

 

So what can I do to keep my blood pressure in a healthy range or decrease my blood pressure?

  • Maintain a weight within a healthy range. Overweight individuals are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.
  • Eat a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and try to limit foods with a high sodium content. Canned foods and processed foods such as crackers, chips, and cookies contain a high amount of sodium that can contribute to a high blood pressure.
  • Exercise! Physical activity can help lower and control blood pressure. Aim to include some type of activity daily.
  • Quit smoking and decrease alcohol intake to 1-2 drinks a day at the most.
  • Take care of yourself! Stress can cause blood pressure to increase. We live in a world that never seems to stop moving. It is important to find a way to unwind and manage stress in a positive way that keeps our bodies and minds healthy .

Written by Madeline R. Glazos, RDN, LD, A’viands Clinical and Wellness Dietitian.

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