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Blood Pressure Awareness - Information about Blood Pressure Awareness Month

Across the world, caring organizations are dedicating specific days of the year to the importance of Blood Pressure Awareness. Throughout Europe, a campaign is in force to raise public awareness about blood pressure.

Since 1984, May has been proclaimed as National Blood Pressure Awareness Month in the United States. The official motto of the blood pressure awareness initiative is "know your numbers".

More than 1 out of every 10 Americans has high blood pressure. Many of those who have high blood pressure do not know it. This is a uniquely silent disease. There are no symptoms until it is too late; the catastrophe of a heart attack or stroke is all too often the first indication of a problem.

Because high blood pressure is silent and can be treated effectively, early detection (home management) is important. Hypertension is unique in this regard. However, don't be panicked by any one reading. Because your blood pressure varies up and down, you will need to have several readings of the first reading is elevated. At least one-third of the people whose first reading is high will be found to have normal readings on subsequent checks.

The blood pressure reading has two numbers. The higher one is the systolic pressure and the lower is diastolic pressure. Blood pressure is considered to be high if the higher number exceeds 140 or the lower number exceeds 90. Traditionally, "normal" is said to be 120 over 80, but this has been overemphasized. Generally, the lower the blood pressure, the better. Low readings are usually found in youngsters and in older people who are in excellent physical condition.

The most important thing to realize is that you must manage this problem yourself. It will be up to you to control your weight, your exercise, your salt intake, and to take your medicines. It should be up to you to take your own blood pressure. Your doctor should be your trusted advisor but cannot assume your responsibility. No matter how much the doctor would like to take care of this for you, he or she cannot. If you are going to manage this problem, you need the blood pressure readings so that you can report changes or difficulties to the doctor. You are in control, and good doctors will emphasize this point.

Blood pressure readings tell pretty much the whole story. Accurately measuring blood pressure at home over a full day is a significantly better predictor of cardiovascular risk than standard office-based measurements. In general, everyone's blood pressure varies in the same way throughout a given day. It is usually highest at work and then drops slightly at home. Blood pressure falls to its lowest level during sleep but suddenly increases at waking, the highest risk period for heart attack and stroke in those with severe high blood pressure. Devices that use a digital readout and a cuff that can be electronically inflated and deflated are proving to be as accurate as a stethoscope. Studies indicate that home blood pressure monitoring has been shown to improve blood pressure control and thereby reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.

Make exercise, weight control, and diet a part of your program. It is true that you can have high blood pressure even though you are slim and exercising regularly. But it is also true that being overweight and out of shape increases the risk of high blood pressure. Most important, recent studies have confirmed that people with high blood pressure who are overweight and not exercising can lower their blood pressure by losing weight and exercising regularly. Many can control their blood pressure entirely without the use of drugs. Most others can reduce the amount of medication that they require. That means less expense and fewer risks and side effects.

Aerobic exercise conditions the cardiovascular system so that blood pressure is reduced. Too high a weight means too high a blood pressure, and reducing your weight is a reliable method for reducing blood pressure. Exercise and diet are, of course, the keys to weight control. Decreasing the salt, fat, and cholesterol in your diet and increasing the potassium and calcium in your diet helps to lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart disease.


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