Keeping blood pressure in check

Only 24% of people with high blood pressure have it under control. The remaining 76% are at very high risk for death or disability through heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. In fact, in 2018 high blood pressure was listed as a primary or contributing factor in nearly a half million deaths. With COVID-19, high blood pressure is known to increase the severity of the disease and the chance that your loved one could die.

If the person you care for has blood pressure greater than 120/80, it’s time to get going. Literally!

Research shows that changes in lifestyle, especially increased physical activity, are often enough to bring blood pressure under control.

The “lifestyle prescription” for blood pressure management includes

  • healthier eating. Fewer sweets and less red meat and packaged foods (high salt content). Instead, eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat proteins.
  • greater activity. Aim for a weekly minimum of two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week. That might be 30 minutes of brisk walking, swimming, or dancing five days of the week. The point is to get the heart rate up and maybe even break a sweat.
  • losing weight. Even a 10-pound weight loss can reduce blood pressure. A healthy weight is a body mass index less than 25 and greater than 18.4.
  • limiting alcohol. Too much alcohol raises blood pressure. Limit alcohol intake to one drink per day.
  • no smoking. Every cigarette smoked causes a temporary increase in blood pressure.

When blood pressure reaches up to 130/80, the doctor will usually prescribe medication in addition to lifestyle changes. Discourage your loved one from cutting back on the prescription or quitting, even when their health seems improved. Talk to the doctor about overcoming barriers, such as uncomfortable side effects or concern about the cost. High blood pressure is not called the “silent killer” for nothing! Blood pressure treatment is for life.