Hypertension: What is it? How Do I Prevent it?

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., ACCESS Media Relations Specialist
June 14, 2016

​Hypertension (or high blood pressure) is a condition in which the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high. An estimated 70 million Americans suffer from hypertension, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is 1 in every 3 American adults. ​

Although hypertension has no day-to-day symptoms, the condition can be severe. If left unchecked, it can lead to heart disease and even a stroke. All ages are susceptible to hypertension, but those 65 and older have the highest risk of developing this potentially harm
ful condition.

Diagnosis

The best way to find out if you have hypertension is to consult a doctor. He or she will take your blood pressure and see if you are in a healthy range. Hypertension has many causes, but secondary conditions can also put you at risk. This includes sleep apnea, kidney problems, thyroid problems, medications, illegal drugs and alcohol abuse. Those who have a family history of hypertension are also at a higher risk of developing this condition.​

Treatment

Luckily, hypertension is treatable. Making adjustments to your everyday life can help lower your blood pressure and keep you safe.

  1. Eat a healthier diet. Avoiding salt and sodium will go a long way in lowering your blood pressure. Try to consume between 1,500 to 2,400 mg of salt and sodium per day. Stick to fruits, low-fat dairy, vegetables and whole grains to lower your risk of developing hypertension.
  2. Lose weight: Those who are overweight have a higher risk of developing hypertension. 
  3. Exercise. Exercising between 20-30 minutes a day will also help lower your blood pressure.
  4. Reduce stress. While it is impossible to avoid all stress, constant stress is a detriment to your health. Try to pinpoint the major stress points in your life and avoid these triggers.
  5. Limit alcohol: Alcohol can be a huge factor in high blood pressure. Men should try to drink no more than two drinks a day, while women should limit intake to one drink a day.
  6. If you smoke, quit! Everyone knows smoking is bad for your health, but it is also a leading cause of high blood pressure. Smoking raises your blood pressure and heart rate. Your nicotine habit narrows arteries, hardens their walls and makes your blood more likely to clot.
  7. Medicate: Diuretics, beta blockers, ace inhibitors, and other drugs are effective medications used to lower blood pressure. Talk to your doctor to see what, if any, medications are the best option for you.

To learn more about how you can control and prevent hypertension, click here to schedule an appointment at one of our 36 conveniently located community health centers in the Chicagoland area.