Healthy Living

Hypertension 101

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of American adults have hypertension. Interestingly, only about one in four of those affected have the condition under control.

Blood pressure is the pressure of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries, which carry blood from the heart to other areas of your body. It’s normal for blood pressure to increase and decrease throughout the day but if it stays elevated, it can lead to heart disease and other health problems such as vision issues or kidney failure.

Blood pressure categories include:

  • Normal: Less than 120/80 mmHg
  • Elevated: 120-129/80 mmHg
  • Hypertension Stage 1: 130-139/80-89 mmHg
  • Hypertension Stage 2: Greater than 140/90 mmHg

The thing about hypertension is that it’s difficult to identify because there usually aren’t noticeable symptoms. In fact, it’s known as the silent killer. If symptoms are present, they’re usually seen in patients with extremely high blood pressure or those who have complications from chronic hypertension. These symptoms may include headache, blurry vision, chest pain, dizziness, difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting.

Patients undergoing cancer treatment should know that blood pressure can change with some treatments and to seek a cardio-oncologist as needed.

Lifestyle changes are most often prescribed to help people manage and lower their blood pressure. These changes might include:

  • Monitoring your blood pressure at home – Monitoring your blood pressure at home daily can help you understand it better and notice changes sooner. To make sure your blood pressure machine is accurate, have it checked every year at your doctor’s office.
  • Eating a healthy diet – Focus on eating lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables and healthy fats. The Mediterranean Diet is often recommended for those looking to maintain a healthy blood pressure. To learn more eating a heart-healthy diet, read Foods For Your Heart.
  • Getting regular exercise – Make a point of doing five, 30-minute moderate-intensity workouts each week. To learn more, read Exercises for a Healthier Heart.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight – Start with learning your body mass index. Aim for less than 25. If you need help getting started with losing weight, talk to your primary care provider.
  • Quitting smoking – If you need help quitting smoking, talk to your primary care provider or find a smoking cessation support group near you.
  • Limiting alcohol – Men should limit their alcohol consumption to two drinks per day and women should have no more than one alcoholic drink per day.
  • Get enough sleep – Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per day. For tips to get better rest, listen to Simple Solutions for a Good Night’s Sleep.

NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health has numerous programs to help people tackle hypertension and successfully manage cardiovascular conditions. To learn more, visit us online or call 847-618-2500.