Column: To stay healthy, know your numbersIt’s important to know your numbers because there are no symptoms of high blood pressure.
By: Ann Busche , Duluth News Tribune
The Minnesota Department of Health recently issued a press release, “High blood pressure is out of control for too many Americans and Minnesotans.” It quoted a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that found one in three adults has high blood pressure.
If those statistics held for Duluth, with an adult population of approximately 70,000, there would be more than 23,100 adults with high blood pressure.
Chances are good that you’ve had your blood pressure taken at some point in your life. An inflatable cuff containing a small pressure gauge is placed on your upper arm. Air is pumped into the cuff, which makes the cuff feel tight around your arm, and then as the air is slowly released a stethoscope is used to listen to the blood moving through an artery.
And then you’re told that your pressure is some number over another number, perhaps 120 over 80. The first number is the systolic blood pressure, which is the pressure when the heart beats and pushes blood through the arteries. The second number is the diastolic, which is when your heart is at rest before its next beat.
Normal blood pressure is anything less than 120 over anything less than 80. If your blood pressure falls into the normal range, congratulations — you have the lowest risk of developing heart disease, stroke or other health problems associated with high blood pressure. Prehypertension is 120-139 over 80-89, and this is the time to take action to avoid hypertension — i.e., high blood pressure — which is when your pressure is 140 or higher over 90 or higher.
It’s important to know your numbers because there are no symptoms of high blood pressure. There are some myths — you’ll feel nervous, sweat, have trouble sleeping, get headaches or nosebleeds, or your face will flush, but those are not facts. The fact is that high blood pressure is called “the silent killer” because there are no symptoms to alert you to the problem. Don’t take a chance with your health or your life. Get your blood pressure checked and know your numbers.
I have normal blood pressure, but I have close family members with high blood pressure, so I do worry a bit about my numbers. There are some things that I can control that will help me prevent high blood pressure. I can work toward these goals:
Maintaining a healthy weight, or if overweight or obese, losing weight
Eating fruits and vegetables (at least 5 servings a day)
Stopping smoking or using tobacco
Exercising (30 minutes a day at least 5 days a week)
Avoiding too much alcohol (men — 2 drinks or fewer a day; women — 1 drink or fewer a day)
Eating less salt (less than 2,400 mg a day, which is one teaspoon)
I also know that age, race/ethnicity and family history are factors that I can’t control, so if I eventually inherit high blood pressure through my parents, then my work toward the above goals may not be enough. I may also have to take some type of medication to control my high blood pressure.
Want more info? Check out the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control website at www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure
Ann Busche is the director of Public Health and Human Services for St. Louis County. Contact her at 726-2096 or email: buschea@ stlouiscountymn.gov