By: Chautauqua Health Action Team
If you live in Western New York, odds are better than average that you know someone who has experienced a heart attack or stroke. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States, and some of the highest rates of heart disease and stroke deaths in all of New York State can be found right here in Western New York. The American Heart Association estimates that 80% of all heart attacks and strokes are preventable with relatively simple measures such as healthier eating, more physical activity, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight, along with managing blood pressure and cholesterol. This article is going to focus on blood pressure control.
Blood pressure tells you the amount of force pushing against your artery walls when the heart is contracting and when the heart is at rest. Over time, if the force of the blood flow is often high, the walls of the arteries get stretched beyond its healthy limit and damage occurs. About 1 in 3 US adults have high blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke. A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 or below. Know your number, and if it’s high, make control your goal.
Work with your healthcare provider to make a plan to lower your blood pressure. A key to better control is a good healthcare provider-patient partnership. Most people diagnosed with high blood pressure want to stay below 140/90, but your healthcare provider can tell you your personal target blood pressure.
Making a few lifestyle changes can make a big change in lowering your blood pressure. Maintain a healthy weight; strive for a body mass index between 18 and 25. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean protein; lower the amount of saturated and total fat you eat. Keep your sodium intake under 1,500 mg a day; this is associated with the greatest reduction in blood pressure! Beware of hidden sodium in processed and packaged foods; it all adds up. Make sure you include physical activity into your day; aim for 40 minutes, 3-4 times per week. Limit your alcohol; drink no more than 1-2 drinks per day. Quit smoking; call the NYS Quitline, 1-866-697-8487, and/or talk with your healthcare provider about quitting.
The Chautauqua County Health Network (CCHN) is working with healthcare providers by offering blood pressure detection trainings to clinicians and distributing “Tips to Get the Right Blood Pressure Reading” tracking cards to the public. Follow these simple steps to get the right blood pressure reading and request that your health care team do the same:
• Before - wear a short sleeve shirt; no eating, drinking, or smoking 30 minutes before; allow yourself time to get to your appointment without being rushed; go to the bathroom 5 minutes before; sit quietly and think happy thoughts while waiting.
• During – sit quietly in a chair with a back; feet on the floor; arm on a table, desk, or chair at heart level; no talking.
• After - Make a habit of checking your blood pressure regularly, tracking your readings, and sharing them with your healthcare provider. (Free tracking cards are available in English and Spanish for your community based organization, worksite, neighborhood, committee, etc. Please contact CCHN at 338-0010.)
If your healthcare provider prescribes medication to help lower your blood pressure, take the medications exactly the way he/she prescribes them. By managing your blood pressure, you are lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke.
CHQ250 is an initiative of the Chautauqua Health Action Team(CHAT), encouraging you to take action to be one of at least 250 strokes, heart attacks, or related deaths prevented in Chautauqua County in the coming year. This column is written by CHAT members and is intended to share information to help you to do your part to live a life free of stroke or heart disease. Follow us on Facebook at CHQ250. Please direct questions or comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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