Shifting the Blood Pressure Danger Zone

Contributed by: Umara Raza, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine

Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, even if blood pressure readings  reach dangerously high levels. As of 2013, approximately 30% of Americans over age 20 and over 50% of those ages 55 and older have elevated blood pressure (hypertension). While not a disease in and of itself, high blood pressure is strongly associated with conditions affecting the heart and vascular system. Research suggests that women with high blood pressure are at higher risk than their male counterparts, prompting researchers to recommend different treatments in women.

In an on-going study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NHLBI) researchers found that lowering blood pressure – with a targeted systolic number of 120 instead of 140 – can significantly reduce the rates of cardiovascular disease. The study also found that lowering the systolic number to 120 can cut cardiovascular disease related deaths by 25 percent in adults 50 years and older who have high blood pressure.

High blood pressure makes a person four times more likely to die from a stroke and three times more likely to die from heart disease. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, killing more women than all forms of cancer combined, and more women than men.

Women have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure especially if you’re overweight, have a family history of high blood pressure, or have reached menopause. Lifestyle choices are crucial to keep blood pressure at 120 or below.

Below are my recommendations for maintaining a healthy blood pressure:

  • Check your blood pressure regularly
  • Quit smoking
  • Get six to eight hours of sleep each day
  • Maintain total cholesterol level of less than 200
  • Eat a healthy diet with more fruits, vegetables, potassium and whole grains
  • Limit alcohol to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men
  • Exercise and maintain a healthy weight – Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every week

If you’re concerned about your blood pressure or other heart related conditions, give us a call. Our expert cardiologists conduct complete health assessments and review medical history to determine heart disease risk factors and how to reduce them.

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