Whenever you visit your doctor, chances are someone wraps a cuff around your upper arm and checks your blood pressure. But while you are familiar with this simple test, you may not understand why your blood pressure is so important to your health.
Understanding the Risks
As blood moves through the arteries, it puts pressure on the artery walls. This pressure goes up and down depending on several things, including physical activity, diet, and medications. A person has high blood pressure when the pressure is elevated most of the time over a period of time.
It’s important to keep tabs on your blood pressure. If it's high and you don’t know it, or if you don’t control it, you may be at greater risk for heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, and other serious conditions. Detecting high blood pressure early and controlling it can help you avoid such life-threatening conditions.
Keep It in Check
Blood pressure tends to rise with age. In addition, people who are obese, who have certain medical problems such as diabetes, or who take certain medications are also at risk. To prevent and/or control high blood pressure:
- Don’t smoke.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, lose excess pounds. Talk with your doctor if you need help.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. Choose a variety of foods that are low in fat, and include lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Be physically active. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking, every day.
- Watch your salt and sodium intake. Aim for no more than 1,500 milligrams, or about half a teaspoon, a day.
- Take medication. If you have high blood pressure, take your medication as prescribed.
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