Jennifer’s Journal: Blood pressure, the silent killer

Published 7:58 am Wednesday, February 8, 2017

By Jennifer Howard

Clark County Extension

Last week we talked about National Wear Red Day and heart disease being the number one killer of women.

With February being designated as Heart Month, we want to focus on ways we can take care of our heart.

The most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show about 70 million adults in the United States, or 1 in 3 individuals, have high blood pressure. This number may be larger than we realize if we consider that an additional 1 in 3 adults have prehypertension or higher than normal blood pressure numbers.

High blood pressure increases a person’s risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney disease, leading to more than 1,000 deaths a day. High blood pressure increases with age and generally affects adults 50 years and older. Hypertension is often called the silent killer because there are no symptoms and a person may have the disease and it could go unnoticed for years.

The good news is there are many steps you can take to reduce your risk for hypertension. It is important to know your blood pressure numbers. If it is normal, you should have it checked every year. If it is high, at 120/90 for example, your doctor needs to monitor and treat your condition.

You should also cut back on the amount of salt in your diet. Many people are accustomed to adding salt to their food. One way to easily reduce the amount of salt you eat is to add little or no salt to your food at the table and during cooking. This might take some getting used to. It helps to cut back or step down from the amount of salt you eat before removing all of the salt from your diet.

Herbs and spices add flavor and help you cut back on salt. Processed and canned foods are higher in sodium and should be replaced by fresh foods. Lowering sodium can have a significant impact on your blood pressure.

Maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in physical activity can help reduce or prevent high blood pressure. Following an eating plan that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat free or low-fat milk also helps reduce blood pressure. These foods provide nutrients such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber and protein, which have shown to lower blood pressure.

Limit alcohol consumption and if you smoke, try to quit.

For more information on heart health, weight loss and physical activity, contact the Clark County Extension Office at 744-4682 or visit us on the web at http://ces.ca.uky.edu/clark.

The 2017 Clark County Wellness Challenge is scheduled for Feb. 15 through May 10.

Weigh-in locations will be Winchester-Clark County Parks and Recreation, Clark Clinic Medical Plaza-Center for Rehabilitation and the Clark County Health Department.

For more information, visit the Clark County Activity Coalition at www.ccactivitycoalition.com/wellness-challenge or follow the Clark County Activity Coalition on Facebook.

Jennifer Howard is the Clark County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences.