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Control hypertension — don’t let it control you

GEHA | March 7, 2024

Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, also called hypertension.

Have you been warned about high blood pressure recently? If so, you’re not alone. Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, also called hypertension, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

The only way to know if you have hypertension is to measure your blood pressure regularly. For this reason, it’s crucial to establish a primary care physician and learn how to maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

Why should you monitor your blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing on the walls of your arteries. When that pressure is too high, it can cause your arteries to harden and lead to serious health risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these can include:

  • Damaged organs
  • Chest or back pain
  • Vision changes
  • Shortness of breath

Unfortunately, hypertension sometimes goes unnoticed due to its lack of signs or symptoms, earning the condition the nickname “the silent killer.” If a person has high blood pressure that’s left untreated, they’re at much greater risk for heart attack and stroke.

How to measure your blood pressure

To officially diagnose hypertension, a blood pressure reading must be taken by a medical professional. There, a medical professional will place a pressure cuff around your upper arm. The cuff is inflated to compress an artery in your arm, halting blood flow. The air is then slowly released, measuring the pressure and providing a final measurement.

Understanding blood pressure test results

The test result will show the measurement as two numbers:

  1. Systolic blood pressure is the top number displayed. This is a measurement of pressure your blood is exerting when the heart contracts during beats.
  2. Diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number displayed. This is a measurement of pressure your blood is exerting when the heart rests between beats.

According to the AHA, a normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 or less. Anyone aged 20 or older with a normal blood pressure should be screened during their routine health check-ups.

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, your health care provider can answer any questions and help you establish a treatment plan.

Tips for maintaining healthy blood pressure

Nutrition plays a crucial role in controlling blood pressure. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet emphasizes foods that are rich in nutrients and low in saturated fat and salt. The DASH eating plan is specifically designed to treat hypertension and can help lower cholesterol levels linked to heart disease.

Additionally, to help combat or avoid high blood pressure altogether, start practicing the following healthy habits:

  • Be physically active
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Enjoy a heart-healthy diet to help lower blood pressures
  • Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Avoid smoking and tobacco products
  • Reduce and manage stress
  • See your doctor on a regular basis

How can GEHA help?

If you haven’t established a primary care physician, you can search for an in-network physician near you by using GEHA’s Find Care tool. Be sure to check out GEHA’s blog where you can find more resources on how to live a longer and healthier life.

Have you attended a webinar?

Every month, GEHA hosts a free webinar designed to offer ways to live a healthier life. Check out our upcoming offerings on aging gracefully, mindfulness and financial well-being. You can view past webinars, too.

View 2024 webinars

“The Facts About High Blood Pressure.”, American Heart Association, 25 March, 2023.
“Measure Your Blood Pressure.”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 January, 2024.
“How High Blood Pressure Is Diagnosed.”, American Heart Association, 25 May, 2023.
“DASH diet: Healthy eating to lower your blood pressure.”, Mayo Clinic, 25 May 2023.

The information contained herein is for informational and educational purposes only. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice and if you have questions regarding a medical condition, regimen, or treatment you should always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider. Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice from a qualified medical professional because of information you have read herein.