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FIRST-PERSON: New data on blood pressure

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)–High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer” because most people do not know they have it until they experience either a stroke or heart attack.

Until recently, high blood pressure was considered anything over 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and normal blood pressure was considered anything below 130/85 mm Hg with a healthy reading considered as 120/80 mm Hg.

Recent studies reported through the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., however, indicate that these longstanding blood pressure standards do little to reduce the risk of heart disease complications. New findings indicate that lower blood pressure goals proved beneficial in reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. The new guidelines recommend blood pressure readings below 120/80 mm Hg with a target goal of 115/75 mm Hg.

What relevance does this have for us? When we choose to honor God with every area of life, our health is included. For your body to be ready to serve God and minister, you must be aware of your health conditions, monitor these regularly, and manage any conditions with the assistance of your physician.

It is vital to have your blood pressure checked at least annually as a minimum. If you have a family history of high blood pressure, are overweight, are experiencing extreme stress in your daily life, are a smoker, or do not regularly exercise, you may want to have your blood pressure checked more often. Remember, you can feel fine and still have high blood pressure. Regular monitoring it is the best way to keep it in check.

To reduce the risk of high blood pressure, live a healthy lifestyle including:

— Check your blood pressure annually with your physician.

— Eat a wide variety of healthful, low-fat food and limit processed food.

— Eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables every day.

— Limit the amount of salt in your diet.

— Exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Exercise strengthens the heart and reduces blood pressure.

— Keep your body weight in a healthy range. Ask your doctor for weight guidelines appropriate for your age and body frame size.

— Know your family history for high blood pressure and stroke.

Sometimes the genetic factors override the lifestyle factors for high blood pressure. But living a healthy lifestyle will reduce the risk of stroke and the other risk factors for heart disease.

Below are some recommendations for managing high blood pressure from the American Heart Association.

— Keep appointments with your doctor. This will help everyone monitor your blood pressure program and make any adjustments to keep your blood pressure under control.

— Take prescribed blood pressure medications as directed. Keep plenty of your medications on hand so you don’t run out. If you don’t feel well after taking a medication, tell your doctor how you feel. This will help your doctor adjust your treatment so you won’t have unpleasant side effects.

— Follow medical advice about diet and exercise. Make an effort to lose weight if it’s recommended. Make changes in your general health habits if you need to.

— Remind yourself that as long as you and your team of health advisers work together, you can control your blood pressure.

— Tell your family you have high blood pressure. They can help you control it. If it’s practical, have your spouse, another family member or a friend go with you to the doctor’s office or clinic. Another person may help you remember what you’re told. The person who prepares the meals in your family needs to know about any diet changes that are needed. Family members also can help you remember to take your medicines on schedule.

— In addition to eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, two to four servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy products also are advised.

— Use less salt. Don’t eat too many salty foods.

— Know what your weight should be. Keep it at that level or below.

— When engaging in at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week, walking at a moderate pace is a great way to manage blood pressure.

Reducing the risk for high blood pressure and properly managing it is one way to honor God with a body that is ready for His service on a moment’s notice. Consider the lifestyle changes that may be necessary to control your blood pressure as an act of worship and good stewardship of what God has blessed you with in your body.
Branda Polk is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer and wellness coach in Memphis, Tenn. For more specific information about high blood pressure, visit the American Heart Association website at www.americanheart.org. The Mayo Clinic blood pressure studies can be accessed at www.mayoclinic.com.

    About the Author

  • Branda Polk