You can have high blood pressure for years without knowing it. Even if you feel fine, it can damage your heart and other organs. Get your blood pressure checked by your doctor once a year to make sure your numbers are good, and learn more about the myths and facts about blood pressure…
You shouldn’t exercise if you have high blood pressure. False
Regular moderate exercise not only helps bring down your blood pressure; it strengthens your heart, zaps stress, and helps you stay at a healthy weight. If you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor what kind of exercise to do and how much. A brisk half-hour walk 5 days a week is a good routine, but starting with even 10 minutes a day helps. How brisk? If you can walk and sing at the same time, you need to work a little harder. If you can walk and talk, you’re moving at a good pace.
You get high blood pressure from stress. False
Your blood pressure may go up for a while when you’re under stress, but there’s no proof that stress causes long-term high blood pressure. Smoking, drinking too much alcohol, being obese, and not being physically active do raise your chance of high blood pressure. If it runs in your family, or if you’re African-American, your risk is also higher. Blood pressure also tends to go up as we age.
You can feel it when your blood pressure starts to go up. False
You can have high blood pressure for years without knowing it. In fact, about 1 in 5 Americans with high blood pressure doesn’t know it. Even if you feel fine, it can damage your heart and other organs. Get your blood pressure checked by your doctor once a year to make sure your numbers are good.
The bottom number is the only one that matters in high blood pressure. False
Both numbers in your blood pressure reading count. A reading below 120/80 is normal. If your top number is 120 to 139 or your bottom number is 80 to 89, you have prehypertension. It means you could end up with high blood pressure unless you take steps to prevent it. If your top number is 140 or above and your bottom number is 90 or above, you have high blood pressure. The higher the number, the greater your health risks.
If you have high blood pressure, you have to take medication. False
Lifestyle changes are the first step for blood pressure that’s a little high. You may not need medicine if you exercise, eat healthy, lose weight or quit smoking if you need to, limit alcohol, and cut salt. If that doesn’t work, your doctor will likely prescribe medication. If medicine brings your blood pressure down to normal, don’t stop taking it. And do keep the healthy lifestyle habits. You need both to lower your chances of having a stroke or other serious health problem.
High blood pressure causes kidney disease. True
High blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure. It can make your kidneys work harder and, eventually, stop working well. This can raise your blood pressure even more. If you are African-American, your chances of having kidney failure are much higher, even if your blood pressure is only a little high. If you have chronic kidney disease, keep your blood pressure below 130/80 with lifestyle changes and medicine.
Cutting back on table salt is the best way to cut sodium. False
Processed food is probably where you get most of your salt. Foods don’t have to taste salty to be high in sodium. Some bread and rolls, soups, frozen pizza, and cold cuts are all high. Read labels. You may be shocked at how much sodium is in your food. Make sure you know how much one serving is. If you eat two servings, you’ll get twice as much sodium. If your blood pressure is even a little above normal, stick to 1,500 mg of sodium a day. That’s less than a teaspoon of salt.
Meditating can lower your blood pressure. True
Studies show that doing Transcendental Meditation (TM) can lower your blood pressure a bit. TM involves focusing on a sound or phrase to get to a relaxed state of mind. But medication is still more effective. So if you have high blood pressure, meditate along with medicating — not instead of it. There’s no proof that yoga or other meditation or relaxation practices lower long-term blood pressure. But they do ease stress, which can spike your blood pressure.
Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD
Know Your Blood Pressure Numbers
Often wonder what the top and the bottom blood pressure numbers mean? Doctors call them systolic (the top number) and diastolic (the bottom number) blood pressure. Knowing both your systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers is important and could save your life.
What Does the Systolic Blood Pressure Number Mean?
When your heart beats, it contracts and pushes blood through the arteries to the rest of your body. This force creates pressure on the arteries. This is called systolic blood pressure. A normal systolic blood pressure is below 120. A systolic blood pressure of 120 to 139 means you have prehypertension, or borderline high blood pressure. Even people with prehypertension are at a higher risk of developing heart disease. A systolic blood pressure number of 140 or higher is considered to be hypertension, or high blood pressure.
What Does the Diastolic Blood Pressure Number Mean?
The diastolic blood pressure number or the bottom number indicates the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. A normal diastolic blood pressure number is less than 80. A diastolic blood pressure between 80 and 89 indicates prehypertension. A diastolic blood pressure number of 90 or higher is considered to be hypertension or high blood pressure.
How Often Should I Get My Blood Pressure Checked?
- If your blood pressure is normal (less than 120/80), get it checked at least every 2 years or more frequently as your doctor suggests.
- If your blood pressure is borderline high — systolic blood pressure between 120 and 139 or diastolic blood pressure of 80 to 89 check it at least every year or more often as your doctor suggests.
- If your blood pressure is 140/90 or higher, talk with your doctor as this is high blood pressure and requires a doctor’s attention.