Path to healthy blood pressure

By: Kathie Cox - Public Health Matters

If you have high blood pressure, you know we need to take steps to lower it – but how much? Do you know your numbers? Do you know the recommended guidelines for normal blood pressure? Did you know having consistent high blood pressure can cause major health problems? Wait. What exactly is blood pressure anyway? It’s the measurement of how hard your blood is pressing into your veins and arteries during and in between heart beats. Not long ago, doctors defined high blood pressure, or hypertension, as a reading above 140/90. Today, “normal” blood pressure is less than 120/80 because research indicates a target of 120/80 could save many more lives. A recent SPRINT study using participants over 50 with a chronic condition, by dropping their systolic blood pressure (that’s the top number), to near 120, reduced their risk of dying from any cause by 27% and from heart-related conditions by 43 percent.

Anyone can develop high blood pressure and that’s why it is important to know your numbers. And there are risk factors you can’t change like your family history, age, gender, or race, but that doesn’t mean you have let your blood pressure numbers get high. High blood pressure can increase your risks of heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney disease and even blindness. So taking control of your blood pressure before you develop hypertension is very important.

Lifestyle naturally, plays a big role in hypertension and why it’s important to change unhealthy habits. Can you make some changes in your eating habits? Become more physically active? Lose just a few pounds? We all know being overweight messes with our self- esteem, but did you know being overweight can also affect your blood pressure? Here’s the good thing. Losing just TEN pounds can help prevent high blood pressure. And we know that maintaining a healthy body weight is important for our overall health anyway, but it is especially important when it comes to preventing hypertension or keeping it in check.

Eating healthy also plays a major role in preventing high blood pressure. Not only can healthier eating help us manage our weight, but the kinds of foods we eat are also important. Here are some tips to manage or prevent high blood pressure (and keep your heart healthy too!).

— Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in meals and as snacks

— Eat less sodium (salt). Choose spicy instead of salty.

— Limit fats (saturated and cholesterol) in your diet

— Choose low-fat dairy products

— Include foods rich in potassium and calcium

— Eat moderate portions

Sometimes the smallest change can make the biggest difference. If we all take those small steps necessary to prevent hypertension or other chronic diseases, is just common sense and we will see the great benefits of improved health.

Want to learn more about hypertension, stroke, heart disease and what you can do to prevent these chronic diseases? For information, programs or presentations contact Kathie Cox, Health Educator and Coordinator of the Active, Healthy Living Partnership with Scotland County Health Department, at 910/277-2470, Ext. 4478, or go to for more information.

Kathie Cox

Public Health Matters

Kathie Cox is a health educator and public information officer at the Scotland County Health Department. Reach her at 910-277-2470, ext. 4478.

Kathie Cox is a health educator and public information officer at the Scotland County Health Department. Reach her at 910-277-2470, ext. 4478.