Take care of your blood pressure for good health

Special to The Sun City PacketSeptember 26, 2012 

You probably have a grocery list and a list of things to do. Perhaps even a list of things to remember to take on your next vacation. These are all useful lists, but there is one list you can keep that could help save your life - a list of ways to control your high blood pressure.

Limit your salt intake Sodium can hold excess fluid in your body, making your heart beat harder and potentially increasing blood pressure. Daily salt intake should not exceed 2,400 mg, or about 1 teaspoon. Avoid fast foods that can be high in salt and check food labels for sodium content.

Eat heart healthy Follow a diet that is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt. Focus on an eating plan that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Incorporate low-fat or fat-free milk and dairy products, as well as fish, poultry and nuts. Limit red meat, sweets, added sugars and beverages that contain sugar.

Be physically active. Check with your doctor before you start exercising. Approximately 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity is recommended daily or on most days of the week. Regular physical activity could include brisk walking, dancing, bowling, bike riding, cleaning house or working in the yard.

Maintain a healthy weight. Losing weight can help reduce the strain on your heart if you are overweight or obese. Aim for a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25 to keep blood pressure under control. Calculate your BMI at the National Institutes of Health website, www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi.

Take medications as prescribed. Your doctor may prescribe medications as part of your treatment plan if lifestyle changes alone do not control your high blood pressure. These medicines can remove extra fluid and salt from the body, slow down the heart rate, or make blood vessels relax or widen. Always take medications as recommended by your physician.

Limit alcoholic beverages. More than two drinks per day for men and one a day for women could cause high blood pressure. One drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits, or 1 ounce of pure alcohol.

Stop smoking. Smoking not only increases your risk of developing high blood pressure, it also raises the chances of stroke, heart disease, several different kinds of cancer, and peripheral arterial disease.

Monitor your blood pressure. Blood pressure measures when the heart pumps (systolic or top number) and when the heart rests (diastolic or bottom number). Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg. Prehypertension develops between 120-139/80-89 mmHg. High blood pressure may be diagnosed when repeated measurements are consistently 140/90 mmHg or higher.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a silent killer that affects one out of three American adults. It often has no symptoms and requires lifelong treatment once it is diagnosed. Fortunately, the condition can be treated through lifestyle changes, medications or both.

Holly Mlodzinski is registered dietitian and health promotions coordinator at Hilton Head Hospital.

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