Get on the Right Path

The American Heart Association dispels a few myths about “the silent killer” so you can better care for your circulatory system and live a longer, heart-healthier life.

By: Erin Wilder

Thirty percent of Corpus Christi-area residents have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, and it is estimated that many more people may be unaware they have the disease. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can injure or even kill you; in fact, it’s known as “the silent killer.”

High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney failure – and the longer it’s left untreated, the more serious its complications can become. Unfortunately, because high blood pressure often has no symptoms, you may not be aware for some time that it is damaging your arteries, heart and other organs.

A diagnosis of high blood pressure may seem overwhelming at first, but dispelling a few myths can get you on the right path so you’ll be motivated to care for your circulatory system and live a longer, stronger, heart-healthier life for yourself and your loved ones.

Myth 1: High blood pressure runs in my family. There is nothing I can do. I will get it, too.
High blood pressure can run in families, and if your parents or close blood relatives have had high blood pressure, you are more likely to develop it, too. However, lifestyle choices have allowed many people with a family history of high blood pressure to avoid it themselves. Lifestyle changes you can make to prevent it include:

• Eat a heart-healthy diet, which includes limiting sodium to less than 1,500 milligrams per day.
• Enjoy regular physical activity.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Manage stress.
• Avoid tobacco smoke.
• Comply with medication prescriptions.
• If you drink, limit alcohol.

Myth 2: I don’t use table salt, so I’m in control of my sodium intake, and my blood pressure isn’t affected.
Sodium can increase blood pressure in some people, but controlling your sodium intake means more than just putting down the saltshaker. Up to 75 percent of the sodium we consume is hidden in processed foods like tomato sauce, soups, condiments, canned foods and prepared mixes. So always remember to read the labels.

Myth 3: I feel fine. I don’t have to worry about high blood pressure.
About 78 million U.S. adults have high blood pressure – and many of them don’t know it or don’t experience typical symptoms. If uncontrolled, high blood pressure can lead to severe health problems. High blood pressure is also the No. 1 cause of stroke.

Myth 4: I have high blood pressure, and my doctor checks it for me, so I don’t need to check it at home, too.
Because blood pressure can fluctuate, home monitoring and recording of blood pressure readings can provide your health care provider with valuable information to determine whether you really have high blood pressure and, if you do, whether your treatment plan is working.

Learn more about healthy blood pressure, treatment options and lifestyle tips at www.heart.org/hbp.

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