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Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and heart failure.

 

Did You Know?

Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will cover preventive care services, including blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, at no cost to you. Learn more. 

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What Blood Pressure Is Considered Too High?

A blood pressure of 140/90 or higher is considered high. A blood pressure of 150/90 is considered high in people over age 60. This is called hypertension.

A blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 is called prehypertension. This means that you do not have hypertension, but you are likely to develop it in the future unless you adopt lifestyle changes to keep your blood pressure under control.

 

How Can I Prevent High Blood Pressure?

You can prevent high blood pressure by:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight; lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Exercising more
  • Eating foods low in salt
  • Eating healthy foods like fruits and vegetables
  • Drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation, if you drink at all

These changes are also recommended for treating high blood pressure, although medicine is often added as part of the treatment.

How Is Blood Pressure Related to Weight?

As your body weight increases, your blood pressure can rise. In fact, being overweight can make you more likely to develop high blood pressure than if you are at your desirable weight. More than 60% of adults in the United States are overweight. You can reduce your risk of high blood pressure by losing weight. Even small amounts of weight loss can make a big difference in helping to prevent and treat high blood pressure.

How Can I Lose Weight?

To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. But don't go on a crash diet to see how quickly you can lose those pounds. The healthiest and longest-lasting weight loss happens when you do it slowly, losing 1/2 to 1 pound a week. By cutting back by 500 calories/day, by eating less and being more physically active, you can lose about one pound in a week.

Here are some tips to help you lose weight and get on the road to healthy eating:

  • Choose foods high in fiber. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, dry peas, and beans, as well as whole-grain (as opposed to highly processed) cereals, pasta, rice, and breads. They are low-calorie and are good sources of vitamins and minerals.
  • Choose whole-wheat vs. processed starches.  Not all starches are equal.  In general, you should choose whole-grain instead of processed starches.  One guideline is to avoid starchy foods that are predominantly white in color – for example, white bread, potatoes, pasta, or rice.  Whole-grain foods have higher nutritional value and generally leave you feeling fuller, which will also help prevent you from overeating.
  • Limit serving size. To lose weight, it's not just the type of foods you eat that's important, but also the amount. To take in fewer calories, you need to limit your portion sizes. Try especially to take smaller helpings of high-calorie foods like higher-fat meats and cheeses. And try not to go back for seconds.
  • Keep a food diary. Write down what you eat, when you eat and why. Note whether you snack on high-fat foods in front of the television, or if you skip breakfast and then eat a large lunch. Once you see your habits, you can set goals for yourself.
  • Exercise. Another important ingredient to losing weight is increasing physical activity. Cutting down on calories and getting regular physical activity can help you lose more weight and keep it off longer than only eating less or only exercising. Exercise can also lower blood pressure. People who are physically active have a lower risk of getting high blood pressure than people who are not active. You don't have to be a marathon runner to benefit from physical activity. Even light activities, if done daily, can help lower your risk of heart disease. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park farther away from the entrance so that you have to walk farther.

WebMD Medical Reference

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