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Test Yourself: How Well Do You Understand High Blood Pressure?
By Nancy Kennedy

High blood pressure, or hypertension, means that the force with which your blood flows through your blood vessels is elevated, and stays elevated. Blood pressure normally fluctuates at different times, but when you have sustained high blood pressure, it can wreak havoc with your heart and your overall health. It’s important to understand this condition in order to prevent it, or to manage it effectively in order to prevent complications.

Normal blood pressure: systolic (upper number) = 120 or less; diastolic = 80 or less

Pre-hypertension: systolic =120-139; diastolic =80-89

High blood pressure: systolic =140 or higher; diastolic =90 or higher

Test your understanding of high blood pressure by answering the true or false questions below:

  1. The symptoms of high blood pressure are fatigue, headache, dizziness and anxiety.
  2. Exercise can help lower high blood pressure.
  3. High blood pressure is mostly due to aging, obesity and high sodium intake.
  4. High sodium foods can be identified by their salty taste.
  5. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, glaucoma, stroke, heart attack, impotence and dementia.
  6. Diuretics are often used to treat high blood pressure.
  7. Obesity increases your risk for high blood pressure by eightfold.
  8. Alcohol can lower your blood pressure.
  9. Cold weather can raise the blood pressure and stress the heart.
  10. If you have high blood pressure you should buy a home monitor and check it daily.
  11. The worst high sodium culprits are fast food, Chinese food, deli meats, pizza and canned soups.
  12. Blood pressure medication should be taken whenever you feel stressed.

Answers:

  1. False. High blood pressure does not have symptoms; it is known as a silent killer.
  2. True. Physical activity
  3. True. Aging, obesity and high sodium are primary causes of high blood pressure, but obesity and sodium intake are factors that can be modified by individuals.
  4. False. Many high sodium foods do not taste salty. Bread and cottage cheese are good examples. To know the sodium content of foods, you have to read the label.
  5. True. These conditions all can be a consequence of high blood pressure. This is why it is so important to get your blood pressure checked and to get treatment if indicated. These diseases can be prevented.
  6. True. Diuretics rid the body of excess fluid which can be due to high sodium.
  7. True. Obesity is second to aging as a cause of high blood pressure.
  8. False. Heavy and regular use of alcohol can raise blood pressure significantly. Limit yourself to two drinks per day if you’re a man, and one drink per day if you are a woman.
  9. True. Alan D. Bramowitz, MD, a cardiologist with Jefferson Cardiology Association, says that cold weather places extra demands on the heart and raises blood pressure.
  10. True. It’s a good idea to have a home monitor to keep track of your blood pressure and determine if your treatment is effective. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the upper arm, cuff-style monitor for the most accurate readings. Visit www.heart.org for more information.
  11. True. It takes time and effort, but cooking your own food means you can control sodium, fat and calories. You don’t have to give up your favorite foods if you learn to make them at home. You can find excellent, heart-healthy recipes at www.millionheartshhs.gov
  12. False. Take your medication exactly as your doctor ordered it and don’t stop taking it abruptly.

Half of American adults have high blood pressure. Good self-care, along with compliance with your doctor’s care, can be very effective in managing high blood pressure. These healthy lifestyle choices are recommended:

  • Follow a low sodium diet – an excellent plan is the DASH diet: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Learn more at www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyles
  • Exercise – aim for 90-150 minutes of aerobic and resistance exercise per week. (AHA)
  • Learn to manage stress.
  • If you are obese, lose weight – even 5 to 10 pounds will make a difference.
  • Don’t smoke!

Use this checklist from the AMA

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