On average, a heart will pump 730,000 gallons of blood throughout the body each year. That’s 70,000 gallons more than it takes to fill an Olympic size swimming pool. The heart is without a doubt one of the hardest working vital organs. As the years pass our hearts need increased protective care to keep from developing costly heart conditions and complications like heart failure or heart attacks.
Hypertension, commonly known as High Blood Pressure (HBP), is among the topmost dangerous health conditions for the heart. Hypertension is also difficult to diagnose because there are typically no apparent symptoms, giving it the nickname, “The Silent Killer.”
In 2019 HBP was a “primary or contributing cause of death for 516,995 people” in the U.S. according to the CDC and in addition to the human suffering costs the country roughly $131 billion per year.
What Can You Do?
Heart protection ideally begins at a young age but having youth on your side does not mean you are risk-free. In fact, nearly 1 in 4 adults between the ages of 20 to 44 struggle with HBP.
While the risk of HBP is certainly greater with age, successful HBP management is achievable at any point in life. The key is to be proactive about your heart health education. You can start by learning, regardless of age, how to properly self-measure and read blood pressure (see chart below). Blood pressure can vary throughout the day and is subject to several emotional and physical factors. Therefore, you should measure blood pressure multiple times in one sitting and ensure that the blood pressure monitor cuff is snug on the upper arm.
To begin, sit upright in a chair with both feet on the floor and relax for a few minutes before taking your blood pressure. It is considered good practice to measure blood pressure on both arms and at least once a year.
*graph below provided by the American Heart Association
|Blood Pressure Category||Systolic mm Hg (upper #)||and/or||Diastolic mm Hg (lower #)|
|Normal||Less than 120||and||Less than 80|
|Elevated||120-129||and||Less than 80|
|High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 1||130-139||or||80-89|
|High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 2||140 or higher||or||90 or higher|
|Hypertensive Crisis (consult your doctor immediately)||Highter than 180||and/or||Higher than 120|
February is American Heart Month
This month is the 28th consecutive February American Heart Month and still there remains a high disparity between HBP awareness and outcomes. Only 24% of adults with hypertension have it under control and approximately 1 in 3 U.S. adults are unaware of their condition.
Nevertheless, American Heart Month is important because it helps raise awareness of a prevalent health condition that is avoidable and manageable through lifestyle modification but is ultimately irreversible and life threatening. Since heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men, intervention and education are critical.
HBP is manageable through diet, exercise and in some cases medication. Individuals with HBP need to work collaboratively with their health care providers to determine the right treatment and control for their unique circumstances. The CDC states that, “some population groups also have higher rates of disease and death associated with high blood pressure, which creates health disparities across communities, and programs and interventions likely require tailoring to increase effectiveness.”
What Else Can You Do?
Exercise and diet. It may come off as trite, but in truth, exercise and diet are our first and best defenses against HBP. Preventive measures to practice include:
- Daily exercise: at minimum 15-30 minutes
- Heart friendly diets: i.e., Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet
- Limit salt and alcohol
- Stress management
- Increase potassium intake
- Stop smoking and vaping
For an extensive dive on how dietary practices and life style modification can help lower HBP and reduce the risk of heart disease visit Cleveland Clinic’s Health Essentials for heart health.
Start protecting your heart this February American Heart Month by taking advantage of the resources made available to you.
Visit the links below if you are an employer or care provider interested in resources to help protect the hearts of your employees and patients.
Health Analytics can help bridge the gap between HBP awareness and progress. Our Poindexter analytics system predicts health events like strokes, heart attacks and diabetic events 6-12 months in advance.