GEHA | September 13, 2019
High blood pressure – also known as hypertension – is often referred to as the silent killer, because there are frequently no obvious symptoms that anything is wrong.
While the symptoms are subtle, the health threats can be life-changing. They include heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, vision loss, erectile dysfunction or lowered libido, angina or peripheral artery disease.
Generally defined as anything more than 120/80, high blood pressure raises your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. If you have high blood pressure, there are things you can do to help control it, including medication.
Lose weight. If you’re overweight, losing 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure. It can also help with sleep apnea, which raises your blood pressure. Lose weight steadily with a mix of healthy eating and exercise.
Watch what you eat. Eat a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Avoid processed foods and those high in carbohydrates, sugar, fat and salt. Go easy on caffeine, which can also raise your blood pressure.
Eat less salt. People with high blood pressure should consume 1,500 milligrams or less of salt a day. One way to cut back is to prepare your food at home instead of eating out. Use more spices and read food labels.
Limit alcohol. Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Doctors recommend men should have no more than two drinks per day and women only one.
Relax. Lower your stress with mind-body exercises such as yoga and tai chi, listening to calming music, meditating, and spending time with family and friends.
Get moving. Regular exercise can help keep you from developing high blood pressure as well as help lower it if it is elevated. Options include going to the gym, gardening, housework and aerobic activities such as walking, dancing, jogging, biking and swimming.
Don’t smoke. This is probably the single best thing you can do for your heart. Your blood pressure rises every time you smoke.
Don’t skip your medication. If your doctor has prescribed medication to help control your blood pressure, be sure to take it exactly as prescribed.
See a doctor. Staying current on your annual physical is a good way for a medical professional to make sure your body is still healthy and on the correct path. GEHA members can also get a biometric screening, which measures blood pressure and can identify certain health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease.
“10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication.” www.mayoclinic.org, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 9 January 2019.
“How to Lower High Blood Pressure Levels.” www.webmd.com, WebMD, LLC, 11 May 2019.
“Preventing High Blood Pressure: Healthy Living Habits.” www.cdc.gov, Center for Disease Prevention and Control, 7 July 2014
“Why High Blood Pressure is a ‘Silent Killer.’” www.heart.org, American Heart Association, 30 November, 2017