Epidemic! An epidemic of high blood pressure levels currently exist in the United States of America. You say, of course we’re exaggerating. We say, no we’re not. Just look at the latest statistics. Alarming, to say the least. The fact is more than 100 million U.S. adults suffer from high blood pressure, according to new statistics from the American Heart Association (AHA).
That’s not all — even more dramatic — the number of deaths from high blood pressure rose by nearly 38 percent from 2005 to 2015. The scary thing is that many people suffering from hypertension don’t even realize they have it. Hypertension is known as the “silent killer”.
The question is why? How did we get to this point?
Epidemic: Hypertension Stats Reflect Better Reporting
The standards for measuring and reporting hypertension stats changed in 2017. At that time, both the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) redefined blood pressure limits to more stringent levels. This new baseline converted more than 31 million Americans from borderline high blood pressure to serious hypertension.
With these new standards, hypertension is now defined as a blood pressure of 130 for the systolic [top] number or 80 for the diastolic [bottom] number.
There is a solid scientific basis for being more stringent. If all American adults over age 45 were able to keep their blood pressure below the new standard of 130/80, it would prevent 3 million strokes and heart attacks over the next decade, according to a 2018 study published in the medical journal Circulation.
Epidemic: Avoid Hypertension With Lifestyle Changes
Stage 1 hypertension (high blood pressure) is a top number between 130-139 (systolic-high) over 80-89 (bottom). If you’re diagnosed with this number, then it’s time to get really serious about getting healthy. Medication is not necessarily the first step to take. Indeed, for most people, changing the lifestyle is the best way to start. For example, you should combine a low-salt diet with the heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Also add to this low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts.
In addition, exercise at least three times a week. Several studies show that this approach can lower your blood pressure on average by 16 mm Hg systolic and 10 mm Hg diastolic after only 16 weeks. And this is without any medication. Think about that!
And, as far as exercise is concerned, you don’t have to train for the Olympics to see great results. Just 30 minutes of moderate morning exercise like walking lowers blood pressure for the rest of the day. This is a great way for senior citizens to exercise.
Moreover, also limit your salt and alcohol intake. Both can dramatically raise your blood pressure. Keep your salt intake below 1,500 mg a day. Also remember that much of the sodium is found in processed foods — so keep an eye on that as well. For alcohol, limit yourself to one drink a day.
Epidemic: Controlling Blood Pressure Improves Health
Getting your blood pressure to normal accepted levels improves your overall health. For example, it can lower your risk by 20 percent for developing dementia.
Moreover, hypertension, if not controlled, affects your kidneys, too. It damages the arteries around the organs, making it harder to deliver enough blood to your kidney tissues. This means your kidneys aren’t able to get the oxygen and nutrients they need. This makes it much harder to filter blood and regulate fluid in your body. It also makes it more difficult to produce the hormone aldosterone, which helps your body regulate blood pressure. Consequently, your body gets trapped in a vicious cycle where both your blood pressure and kidney function continue to worsen.
High blood pressure can also damage the tiny blood vessels around your eyes, causing blurred or even complete loss of vision.
The bottom line: Get your blood pressure under control.