No pressure…but let's talk about blood pressure


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Regardless of your age, high blood pressure can affect your health.

It’s never too early for adults to pay attention to their blood pressure.

The under-40 crowd – Millennials and younger Gen-Xers – may think of hypertension as an issue for people of their parents’ generation. While it’s true that blood pressure tends to increase with age, multiple studies have shown that young adults who have slightly elevated blood pressure (prehypertension) are more likely to have heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease later in life.

To determine if you have hypertension or prehypertension, here are the numbers you need to know:

  • Normal blood pressure: Less than 120 for systolic pressure (the top number in your reading, which reflects when your heart is contracting) and less than 80 for diastolic pressure (the bottom number, reflecting when your heart is relaxed)
  • Prehypertension: A systolic pressure between 120 and 139, and a diastolic pressure between 80 and 89
  • Hypertension: Pressures higher than 140/90

Treating prehypertension

If you have a systolic or diastolic pressure in the prehypertension range, should you be taking blood pressure medication? Probably not. But it’s worth talking to your physician about what steps you can take so it doesn’t become a more serious problem.

There are no drugs approved for treating prehypertension. But lifestyle changes might be in order − reducing salt intake, eating more fruits and vegetables, and increasing potassium intake are differences that could help. Regular exercise is another important component of controlling blood pressure.

Sound difficult? Here’s a list of small changes to consider – in consultation with your doctor – to maintain a healthy blood pressure:

  • Remove the salt shaker from the dinner table.
  • Avoid canned soups, processed lunch meats, and hot dogs to lower salt intake.
  • Enjoy pizza as a special-occasion food, not a weekly ritual.
  • Keep cut-up vegetables on the top shelf of the fridge for high-visibility and easy snacking.
  • Make your weekday dessert a piece of fruit.
  • Ask to substitute a side salad for french fries when you eat out.
  • Find three news ways to prepare your favorite vegetable.
  • Eat a banana with breakfast to increase your potassium.
  • Include sweet potatoes and avocados as a regular part of your diet to add potassium.
  • Walk for 30 minutes during your lunch break.
  • Participate in an exercise class several times a week.
  • Leave the car at home and bike to school, work, the store, or a friend’s house whenever possible. 

Consider starting with two of these tips, then gradually add more. Before you know it, these small actions will become healthy habits you do instinctively.

Regardless of your age, high blood pressure can affect your health. Now is the time to talk to your doctor about what you need to do to protect your heart for years to come. Our One Heart blog offers tips for heart health, along with interesting patient stories and emerging heart care technology.