Have you ever wondered if American Heart Month aligns with February for a reason? Did Valentine’s Day and all of the heart shaped items everywhere have anything to do with it?
If so, it was a brilliant choice! Your heart is an important part of you, and one that you should pay extra attention to year-round!
Did you know that nearly 1 in 2 adults in the United States has high blood pressure also known as hypertension? Wow, shocking right?!
Would you be surprised if we broke that statistic down further to say that only 1 in 4 of those with hypertension have their condition under control? Or that high blood pressure puts people at higher risk of heart disease and stroke, which are also leading causes of death, disability, and health care costs?
So, what exactly is high blood pressure? To put it simply, it is a measure of how hard your blood pushes against your arteries as it moves throughout your body. Your blood pressure should naturally rise and fall throughout the day; however, prolonged high blood pressure can lead to significant health risks like heart attack, stroke, or heart failure.
As someone who has a long family history of heart related issues, it should not have been a shock to me that I’m now a part of the statistics above. Frustratingly enough, research often cannot find an underlying cause for high blood pressure. However, there are many factors such as smoking, being overweight, lack of physical activity, too much salt in your diet, excessive alcohol consumption, stress, age, genetics, family history, kidney disease, thyroid disorders, or sleep apnea that can play a factor in someone’s diagnosis. I bet at least one of these indicators hit home for you, as many did for me.
Thankfully there are ways in which you can take control of your health and improve your overall well-being. Here’s a great list provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to help you get started.
Changing your lifestyle can be difficult, but don’t let that stop you! You can often find support through family and friends. You should also make sure to work with your health care provider to develop a plan. In addition to you network of support, look for ways you can introduce healthier foods and exercise into your routine.
Also, if you’re uncertain of what foods to eat, start by adding fruits and vegetables to your daily diet, especially those that are potassium-rich like spinach, sweet potatoes, and bananas. You can also find great resources from the USDA or the National Institute for Health (NIH).
If you have not scheduled your annual physical, make the call today and set a positive example for those around you. The better we take care of our hearts, the more our hearts can love and care for those around us.
About the Author
Nancy Mulholland serves as the Program Manager for Warrick Dunn Charities, Inc. By sharing her personal health journey with high blood pressure and what she’s learned along the way, Nancy seeks to empower others to prioritize their overall health and well-being.