Silent killer awareness month under way

News Release Distributed 05/01/09

May is high blood pressure awareness month. LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames says high blood pressure or hypertension is called the silent killer because it usually has no symptoms.

Some people may not find out they have hypertension until they have trouble with their heart, brain or kidneys. More than 65 million American adults (one in three) have high blood pressure.

Blood pressure rises and falls during the day. When blood pressure stays high over time, the heart must work harder, which may damage the heart, arteries, kidneys, brain and eyes.

Reames explains that untreated high blood pressure can cause heart failure, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and vision problems or blindness.

High blood pressure is a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher. According to information from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, once high blood pressure develops, it usually lasts a lifetime. The good news is that it can be treated and controlled.

Blood pressure changes and is lowest during sleep and rises when you get up. It also can rise when you are excited, nervous or active. For most of the waking time, however, blood pressure stays about the same when sitting or standing still.

A blood pressure reading below 120/80 mmHg is considered normal. In general, lower is better. Very low blood pressure, however, can sometimes be a cause for concern and should be checked out by a doctor.

Consistent blood pressure readings of 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered high blood pressure. Both numbers are important. If one or both numbers are usually high, you have high blood pressure.

Prehypertension is blood pressure between 120 and 139 for the top number or between 80 and 89 for the bottom number. Since prehypertension is likely to lead to high blood pressure, it’s important to take action to prevent it.

If you are being treated for high blood pressure and have repeated readings in the normal range, you still have high blood pressure.

Healthy habits to prevent or control high blood pressure include: cutting down on salt and sodium; eating healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products; losing excess weight and staying at a healthy weight; being physically active; quitting smoking; limiting alcohol intake; and taking medicines if prescribed.

Too many Americans eat too few fruits and vegetables and often load up on foods high in saturated fat, added sugars and sodium. These typical eating habits can lead to increased risk of high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart attack and stroke.

Recent studies show that blood pressure can be lowered by following a healthy eating plan called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and by eating less salt (sodium). The DASH diet favors fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and plant-based protein.

A study published in “Archives of Internal Medicine” showed that women who followed a DASH eating pattern, over 24 years of monitoring, had significantly lower rates of heart disease and stroke.

The DASH diet is healthier than other plans in several ways. It is:

– Rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables. This increases potassium, which helps to reduce fluid retention due to excess sodium. Americans often do not eat the recommended amounts and variety of fruits and vegetables.

– Rich in dairy foods, which contain calcium and vitamin D that are important for lowering blood pressure. Many Americans don't get enough calcium or sufficient vitamin D.

– Low in saturated fats that increase the risk of heart disease.

– Filling, while being lower in calories. More than 65 percent of Americans are overweight or obese and can benefit from moderating calorie intake with the DASH diet.

– Moderate in sodium. Many Americans are sensitive to sodium and would benefit from reducing sodium in the diet.


Editor: Mark Claesgens 

5/2/2009 12:31:43 AM
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