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In the News

Keep Your Blood Pressure in Line

By Dr. Victor Gong, Medical Director of 75th St. & 126th St. Medical, Ocean Pines Medical & Doctors Weight Control & Wellness centers, Ocean City, MD.

If you have hypertension (high blood pressure), consider yourself lucky.

Yes, lucky!

Unlike millions of Americans, you know about your condition, which means you can effectively control it. The result could be prevention of heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure – all serious risks of uncontrolled hypertension. In fact, many of the steps you can take to control hypertension would benefit everyone, not just you and the 50 million another Americans who have high blood pressure.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the same lifestyle changes recommended for treating people with hypertension can actually help prevent hypertension from developing in other people. So share these tips with your family members:

  • Trim Down:

    Weight gain is the No. 1 cause of hypertension. Extra pounnds burden your heart. For many people, losing even a few pounds will make a big difference.

  • Be More Active:

    Build more physical activity into your day. Physical activity can directly lower blood pressure, strengthen the heart, and help you lose weight. Fortunately, a few minutes of exercise here and there add up. You don't have to run marathons to help your heart stay healthy.

  • Choose Healthy Foods and Beverages:

    Eating too much salt has been linked to high blood pressure. Taking the salt shaker off the table and reducing the amount of fat (important for trimming down) in your diet are good ideas. One way to do both is to cut down on how many prepared foods or fast foods you eat. Treat yourself to lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

It's also important for you to limit how much alcohol you drink. Alcohol consumption has been associated with increased blood pressure. If you do drink, moderation can help you manage your blood pressure and overall health.

It's in your hands. Ask your doctor about other steps you can take. You and your family may have to make some changes in your life to keep your blood pressure under control – even if your doctor has prescribed medications. But that's the point: It will be under your control.

So What Do Those Numbers Mean?

120/80 Both numbers in a blood pressure reading are important. Let's use 120/80 (read "120 over 80") as an example. This is the blood pressure of a typical healthy adult.

When your heart beats, it sends blood pumping through large blood vessels called arteries. The pressure in those arteries increase – and that's what is represented by the first number (120). This is called systolic (sis-TAHL-ik) pressure.

Between beats, the heart relaxes and the blood trickles off into smaller vessels. This flow of blood creates pressure in the smaller vessels. The second number (80) represents this pressure – called diastolic (di-a-STAHL-ik) pressure.

If you have hypertension, your blood pressure is likely to be at least 140/90. The higher the numbers, the harder it is for your heart to pump blood. This places a greater strain on your heart as well as your blood vessels.

Next time we will discuss the new medications as well as some natural means of controlling your blood pressure.

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