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Since 1984, May has been known as National Blood Pressure Education month in the United States - and for good reason! As of today, the statistics on high blood pressure are as follows:
1 in 6 deaths in the United States is due to heart disease 1 in 3 adults in the United States have high blood pressure and 21% of them don't even know it. 76.4 million Americans ages 20+ have high blood pressure Every 40 seconds someone has a stroke, while Every 4 minutes, someone dies of a stroke (hypertension is the leading contributing factor in strokes)
The motto for this month is "know your numbers." That really is the best thing you can do. By knowing where your heart health stands - no matter what your age - you can be proactive in your own health and well-being, and prevent unnecessary trips to the hospital, unnecessary medications, and a whole host of unnecessary conditions and diseases. Know your numbers.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the numbers you need to be watching look like this:
Normal BP: less than 120/80 Prehypertension: 120-139 / 80-89 High BP: 140+/90+ or are taking anti-hypertensive medication
What does this mean?
Here's your simple science lesson for the day: Blood Pressure is the measurement of the force of blood flow through the arteries. Your systolic pressure is the amount of force put on your arteries when your heart contracts and pushes blood through them to the rest of your body. Your diastolic pressure is the amount of force on the arteries when the heart is at rest between beats. It is said: "systolic over diastolic," or 120/80 for example. Blood pressure is measured by temporarily stopping blood flow through an artery (tightening the cuff) and then listening for it to begin again as the air is released from the cuff.
So, how can you improve your heart health in a big way? Diet and exercise is the key. You don't have to eat grass and granola for the rest of your life, but limiting the added sugars, salts, and saturated/trans fats will do you a world of good. A diet rich in fruits, veggies, beans, nuts (low sodium, of course), non/low fat dairy, and lean/skinless meats is perfect. Also, fish high in Omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, herring, etc, is excellent for your cardiovascular system (and no, fish fries don't count).
Think that eating healthy is expensive? Having a disease, and being constantly sick or on medication is a million times more expensive.Cutting down on the junk and making a few simple lifestyle changes is easier than you think. Here are a few of my own suggestions, but feel free to comment and add your own!
If you go out to dinner 3-4 times/week, only go 1-2 times; and when you go out, make the right choices for your meal or restaurant.
Everyone thinks snacking is the devil, but not if you're snacking healthy! Grab your favorite fruit or vegetable to munch on – even a frozen yogurt is better than that brownie that you were going to have.
Find a healthier cookie recipe than what Toll House has to offer. There are many great ones out there that have chocolate and sugar, just like "normal" desserts, but are better for you – you don't have to sacrifice taste for health!
Overweight? Lose a few pounds. Even losing just 5-10 lbs can be great for your health. And, if you start eating better, they might come off quicker than you think!
Exercise daily. You don't need a personal trainer yelling at you everyday or an expensive gym membership. Going for a walk is not only therapeutic (stress is a factor in heart health, as well), but it is great for your body. Anything you can do that will get you up and moving for even just an hour everyday is great. I've recently joined the YMCA in my area and even though I only use the elliptical because I'm too much of a chicken to take one of those fun-looking Zumba or kick-boxing classes by myself (or walk around the block by myself), I still know that I am treating myself better than I would be sitting on the couch vegging out.
Unwind and de-stress. When I get home from work I greet our cat, clean up a little, start dinner, and by then I have about 20 minutes of total silence to myself until my significant other comes home that I can use to rest my brain and decompress. I am lucky, I realize this. I'm 27, no kids, very simple life. It's easy for me. Doing something like reading your kids a story for a half hour before bed, or taking a time-out in the kitchen with a cup of tea for 10 minutes by yourself while your family watches TV in the living room can be just as therapeutic. Even using that 20 minute car ride on the way home from work to rock out to your favorite tunes is still something! Figure out what makes you relax, and take the time daily/weekly to do it. Do you find exercising relaxing? You've just covered 2 steps in one.
It sounds like a lot, but just start small. There are many resources out there on the internet, from your family, your local health food store - and your doctor's office, don't forget - that can help you figure out how to make the changes you need to make work for you and your lifestyle. What changes do you need to make? Know your numbers. Getting a home blood pressure unit and comparing your numbers with your doctor's can help a lot. It will help you figure out when your numbers are best, are worst, and the factors that contribute to that. Are they highest right after work? Are your doctor's numbers higher because you're nervous? Are they just high all-around no matter what? Do what's right for you, make the changes that need to be made, and continue to educate yourself so that you can live a long and healthy life.If you're looking for some equipment to help you at home, here are a few of our favorites...
ADC Advantage 6012 Semi Automatic Home BP Monitor ADC 6013 BP Monitor with Smart Logic Technology Advanced Blood Pressure Machine 6014 Ekho Heart Rate Monitor - monitor your HR as you exercise! Fat Loss Monitor with Scale Skil-Care Aqua Weight
Can't find what you're looking for? Give us some suggestions!Sources: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG http://www.cdc.gov