May 04, 2022
Nearly 1,000 people die every day from conditions related to hypertension – but that often goes undiagnosed until it’s too late. Unlike the regular swings in blood pressure that occur between activities, hypertension occurs when blood pressure does not return to normal levels. The continually high pressure damages blood vessels and increases the risk of a number of chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, heart attack, congestive heart failure, kidney disease and stroke. What makes hypertension so hard to catch is that there are often no associated symptoms — just high blood pressure, explained Steven Borer, DO, board-certified cardiologist at Hartford HealthCare’s Heart & Vascular Institute. “By the time symptoms of heart disease or heart failure develop, the damage has already been done,” says Dr. Borer. “However, some people may experience symptoms when their arterial pressure is very high, including headache, nosebleeds, visual changes, dizziness, palpitations, chest pain, or shortness of breath. Dr. Borer stressed the importance of having your blood pressure checked regularly to make sure it’s in a healthy range – ideally no higher than 130/80. It can be checked during a visit to your primary care provider, a health check or with a home blood pressure monitor.Before the age of 40, adults should have their blood pressure checked about once every one to two years. After age 40, it should be checked at least once a year, and more frequently if a high reading is noted. If your blood pressure is high, there are several ways to deal with the problem without medication. “People who eat healthier foods, exercise regularly, avoid risky substances (like smoking or excessive alcohol consumption), and have a normal body weight are much less likely to have high blood pressure” , says Dr. Borer. “For example, for every two pounds of weight lost, blood pressure tends to drop by about 1 mmHg. So if someone loses 10 to 20 pounds, they can lower their blood pressure by 5 to 10 mmHg, which which is similar to the effect of certain medications Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (also called DASH) suggests eating a variety of foods high in potassium, fiber and protein and low in sodium and saturated fat, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils Common foods to avoid or minimize include red meat, processed meat (including including bacon, sausages, hot dogs, and many deli meats), highly processed snacks (like donuts and candy bars), and sugary drinks Physical activity can also help you maintain a healthy weight. health and lower your blood pressure. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or biking, each week, which can lower your blood pressure by 5 additional mmHg. Even smaller amounts of exercise, like 15 to 30 minutes per week, can have health benefits. “When making changes, it’s important to start by setting very realistic and achievable goals, even if they seem very small,” says Dr. Borer. “Once these goals are achieved, new goals can be set and pursued. Achieving these small goals will ensure greater success than making drastic changes all at once. Dr. Borer currently leads Hartford HealthCare‘s new Lifestyle Medicine program, which aims to empower patients to make specific and meaningful lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and improve their health. general health. A multidisciplinary team of providers works closely with patients to assess their current lifestyle habits and address the underlying causes of many common chronic conditions. By working together to identify lasting changes, patients can set themselves on the path to more optimal health.