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Because of its lack of symptoms, high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) is commonly known as the "silent killer". With the release of updated blood pressure guidelines by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, about 46% of the U.S. adult population are now considered to have high blood pressure.
Previously, blood pressure numbers of 140/90 indicate high blood pressure; these numbers are now lowered to 130/80.
High blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke and heart disease. According to the guidelines, for a person who reaches age 45 without having hypertension, the risk for developing hypertension within the next 40 years is 93 percent for African Americans, 92 percent for Hispanics, 86 percent for whites, and 84 percent for Asian Americans.
If you know that you have high blood pressure, here's what to do:
"Changing one’s diet and exercise is often the first step in treating patients with hypertension", said Dr. Gervasio Lamas, chief of cardiology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach. In South Florida, Latin food is often high in salt and calories. Two of the highest obese populations are Hispanics and African Americans because of diet, portion size and genetics.
Studies show that following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which encourages a low-salt, high-potassium diet with fruits and vegetables along with an active lifestyle, can help to control elevated blood pressure. This can be supplemented by exercising at least 30 minutes daily, three-to-fives times weekly, said Dr. Ian Del Conde, cardiologist and head of vascular medicine at the Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute at Baptist Health South Florida.
Reducing alcohol consumption also plays a role. Alcohol intake affects blood pressure, said Dr. Carl Orringer, cardiologist at the University of Miami Hospital and associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Men should limit alcoholic drinks to two a day, women once a day.
If lifestyle modifications don’t work or the patient’s risk is high, then the patient should be treated with medication. Hypertensive patients with a high risk are advised on lifestyle modification but are started on medication to reduce chances of complications, Orringer said. Patients who are diabetic, smoke or have high cholesterol are more prone to be treated with medication.
Patients can be proactive and check their blood pressure as well. To have a proper blood pressure measurement, the patient needs to rest for at least five minutes prior. Also, have the appropriate size blood pressure cuff for their body type. If a patient has a heavy arm and a small cuff is used, that can result in an inaccurate reading. Avoid drinking coffee or alcohol 30 minutes before measuring blood pressure.
With that being said, people should not neglect having their blood pressure checked by their doctor. “Keep a log with the date and time of blood pressure reading,” Del Conde said. “Patients will then have a very good feel for their blood pressure and be able to tell doctors their blood pressure history.”