May 7, 2010


WAYNESBORO, Tenn. — High blood pressure affects about 50 million—or one in four—American adults, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Of those with hypertension, about 68 percent are aware of their condition, but only 27 percent have it under control. During National High Blood Pressure Education Month, Wayne Medical Center (WMC) offers tips on controlling hypertension.

Hypertension—or high blood pressure—can lead to stroke, heart failure, or kidney damage. To help prevent it, blood pressure must be lowered to less than 140/90. Normal blood pressure is at or below 120/80.

“People really need to talk about their blood pressure with their physician,” said Kay Casteel, director of nursing at WMC. “Have your blood pressure checked and, if it's high, ask about adjusting your medication and whether you’ve made the necessary lifestyle changes to bring it to below 140/90.”

Casteel offers several tips to keep high blood pressure under control:

  • Reduce sodium in your diet. Choose fresh produce over canned goods, which tend to be high in salt. Limit canned soups, frozen dinners and entrees, and vegetables with sauces.
  • Achieve a healthy body weight. If you are overweight or obese, carrying this extra weight increases your risk of high blood pressure. Reduce your calories by choosing low-fat foods and eating smaller portions.
  • Become more physically active. Do at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week.
  • Lower stress. Stress or anxiety can temporarily increase blood pressure. Take some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as work, family, finances or illness. Take breaks for deep-breathing exercises or schedule a stress-relieving activity. If self-help doesn't work, seek out a professional for counseling.
  • Avoid tobacco products. Research shows that smoking increases your chances of developing heart disease, stroke, peripheral arterial disease and several forms of cancer.
  • If you drink alcohol, practice moderation. The U.S. guidelines recommend that men have no more than two drinks per day and women have no more than one alcoholic beverage per day.
  • Take medication as directed by your doctor. If you notice any side effects of your blood pressure medications, notify your doctor .

“This is an opportunity to make a new start on a healthier heart," said Casteel. "The same lifestyle steps that control high blood pressure may also prevent it. Everyone in the family can take action together."