American Heart Month

Some Background About This Month

February is American Heart Month, and truly this is an issue that affects all Americans. Heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Since 1964, we have used February to highlight the impact of heart disease, but also to discuss how we can decrease risk factors. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and unfortunately very common.  According to the American Heart Association, almost half of all American adults have high blood pressure. This is a major risk factor for the development of heart disease.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is when the force of blood moving through your body is too high. For most, there are no symptoms of high blood pressure. The best way to know your numbers is to test them. Testing blood pressure is easy, in fact, many stores even have blood pressure cuffs available to use.

What Does it Mean

Blood pressure has two numbers-systolic and diastolic. Systolic, or the top number, measures the force of your blood when your heart is beating. Diastolic, or the bottom number, indicates force between beats. Having your blood pressure taken during a regular check-up is a great way to discuss what your numbers mean. In general, a blood pressure of 120/80 mm Hg or less is considered ideal.

Who is at Risk

Anyone can have high blood pressure. While there are certain risk factors like being overweight/obese, smoking, age, and family history, sometimes someone can have high blood pressure despite no identifiable risk factors. Diet, lifestyle, and stress management are all important ways we can help control our blood pressure. Diets high in sodium and physical inactivity are two huge ways to cause high blood pressure.

Tips for Reducing Risk

While there are many ways to decrease risk, here are seven tips to help decrease the risk of high blood pressure:

  1. Know your numbers– at your next visit discuss your risk with your medical provider
  2. Get fit– Add in a few extra minutes of moderate activity every day
  3. Eat a healthy diet– schedule an appointment to see a dietitian to discuss healthy eating and label reading
  4. Be consistent– Discuss any medications with your doctor and make sure to take any medications prescribed regularly
  5. Learn your risk– discuss relevant family history of heart disease or hypertension
  6. Put the flame out– if you smoke, talk to your medical provider about resources to quit
  7. Don’t overdo it– Excessive alcohol intake increases the risk of high blood pressure

Who Can Help

QMG has a great Nutrition and Cardiology team available for assistance when it comes to matters of the heart. Additionally, Living Healthy with QMG has more information about heart disease, goal setting, and healthy eating on the go!