by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is reported that in the United States, nearly one in three adults has hypertension, but only about half (47%) of those have it under control.

Hypertension is another word for high blood pressure, and blood pressure is the force of blood against artery walls. If the blood pushes against the arteries too hard for too long, serious health problems can develop. In fact, high blood pressure is often called “the silent killer” because it has no symptoms but can seriously damage your brain, heart, and kidneys. The CDC revealed that “Each day in the United States, nearly 1,000 deaths are associated with hypertension.” Moreover, roughly 67 million Americans already have high blood pressure.

To find out your blood pressure, all you need is a blood pressure test. You can have a test done at your doctor’s office, and it’s totally painless. Here’s what to make of your blood pressure numbers…

Systolic Blood Pressure (Top Number)

  • Less than 120: Normal
  • 120-139: Prehypertension
  • 140-159: Stage 1 High Blood Pressure
  • 160 or More: Stage 2 High Blood Pressure

Diastolic Blood Pressure (Bottom Number)

  • Less than 80: Normal
  • 80-89: Prehypertension
  • 90-99: Stage 1 High Blood Pressure
  • 100 or More: Stage 2 High Blood Pressure

Remember, high blood pressure usually has no symptoms, but it can cause serious problems such as stroke, heart failure, heart attack and kidney failure.  However, you can control high blood pressure through healthy lifestyle habits and taking medicines.

Here are 3 ways to reduce your risk of high blood pressure or bring your blood pressure back to normal if you’ve already got hypertension.

Tip #1: Skip Sodium

You can take action to prevent high blood pressure by reducing sodium (salt) intake. Most Americans consume too much sodium, and it raises blood pressure in most people. Reduce the salt in your diet by cutting back on frozen, canned, and restaurant foods (huge sources of sodium), and checking the Nutrition Facts panel on the foods you buy. Daily sodium intake should be less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg if you are among persons who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

Tip #2: Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

You know what’s really low in sodium? Fruits and vegetables!  Of course, replacing sodium-rich foods with fresh fruits and vegetables isn’t the only way you can use them to reduce your risk of hypertension. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with healthful nutrients that reduce the risk of chronic disease, help with weight control, and even manage blood sugar.

Tip #3: Stay Active

Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. For adults, it is recommended to fit in at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling, every week. Children and adolescents should get 1 hour of physical activity every day!  Bing physically active can help you reduce your risk of hypertension in two ways — by directly helping lower your blood pressure, and by helping you manage your weight, which is another high blood pressure risk factor.