Preventing Hypertension

It Takes a Village

Take high blood pressure seriously

By the North County Staff

Chances are you know someone with high blood pressure, or hypertension, if you don’t have it yourself—it affects about one in four American adults.

High blood pressure doesn’t sound very serious, but it can be a silent and deadly condition because you may not see any symptoms until you have a stroke or heart attack, experience heart failure, or have heart or kidney disease.

Untreated high blood pressure can damage your heart, brain, kidneys, or eyes, and can cause coronary artery disease and kidney failure. This is one of those things that we have to take seriously, especially as we age.

In fact, getting older is a risk factor for blood pressure. Other risk factors are being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, having a family history of high blood pressure, and eating too much salt. Not exercising will cause your blood pressure to go up, as will smoking or not eating enough potassium or calcium.

First of all, it’s important to check your blood pressure often. Your doctor can do it, or he or she can show you how to do it yourself at home with a kit you can buy at many area stores.

A blood pressure test checks your systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure is how hard your blood pushes against your arteries’ walls when your heart is pumping; diastolic blood pressure refers to how hard it pushes between heart beats.

Generally speaking, normal is 120/80 (systolic/diastolic), and anything over 140/90 is high, but talk to your doctor about what’s normal and high for you. If you’ve been seeing that doctor for a while, he or she will have a record of your blood pressure readings over time.

It’s also good to check your cholesterol every year, because high cholesterol narrows arteries and leads to high blood pressure.

Being overweight makes you two to six times more likely to develop high blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy weight may be the most important thing you can do to prevent hypertension.

In fact, exercise lowers your risk of getting high blood pressure by 20 percent to 50 percent. Simple aerobic activities, like walking about two-and-a-half hours per week, can lower your blood pressure and your body mass index (BMI), which should be between 18.5 and 24.9. You can figure out your BMI by multiplying your weight by 700 and dividing by your height.

Another way to tell if you’re overweight is to measure your waist: men should be under 40 inches and non-pregnant women under 35.

A healthy diet can also lower your weight and your blood pressure, and a specialized diet called the DASH diet—Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension—ensures you get the vitamins and nutrients most suited to lowering your blood pressure. The American Heart Association particularly recommends this diet. It is a low-fat, low-sodium, high-fiber diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (to learn more about this diet, visit

At least cut back on the sodium. It’s everywhere these days, especially in restaurant and processed foods. The recommended amount of sodium per day is less than 2,400 milligrams—about one teaspoon.

Other things you can do to help prevent hypertension are not smoking, drinking only in moderation (one drink a day for women, two for men), and minimizing stress.

It’s a lot easier to prevent hypertension than it is to treat it, and a lot safer too. Check out that DASH diet web site. In the long run, changing what we eat and how much we exercise is lifetimes easier than recovering from a stroke.

North County provides long term care and rehabilitation at 310 West Taft in Sapulpa. You can contact her at or visit the website at