Hypertension is called the “silent killer” because blood pressure can be high for many years without any signs or symptoms. Most sources say that the ideal target blood pressure is below 120/80, however your goal is determined by your physician and is based on a number of health factors. The top number represents the pressure in your arteries when your heart is contracting and the bottom number is the pressure in your arteries between beats, or when your heart relaxes. If left untreated, hypertension can damage your arteries, organs, affect your vision, and even your ability to think. This condition significantly increases risk for heart attack and stroke. There is much you can do to improve and maintain healthier blood pressure. Moving towards a healthy weight can help. If you are overweight, losing even 5 lbs. can have a positive effect on blood pressure. In addition, consuming adequate amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables is central to promoting a healthy cardiovascular system. Becoming aware of how much salt is in the processed foods we eat and limiting sodium intake to 1500 mg per day is recommended. Managing stress, limiting alcohol intake, and not smoking can also lower blood pressure. If you need to work on many or all of these areas, taking on these practices may seem overwhelming. A study by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in 2007 demonstrated that walking as little as 3 days per week for thirty minutes over 12 weeks can lower systolic blood pressure by 5 points. This study also found that even these relatively small increases in activity can shrink the waistline by a few centimeters. Identifying and taking small steps towards your health goals can be rewarding and overtime can add up to life changing leaps.
Anna Kotula, DPT