May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. Do you know the signs of high blood pressure or what the numbers mean on your blood pressure monitor? Are you even getting it checked or monitored?
I’ve spoken about high blood pressure previously here on my website, and there are numerous posts about heart health. I grew up with a maternal family that suffered from hypertension. Growing up, I watched my mom take pills for hypertension and vowed that I would take better care of myself in order to prevent being on medication like my mother. I limited my salt intake and, since I was a medic in the army, I thought that I was taking pretty good care of myself.
However, when I was pregnant with my now 10-year-old, I found out that I was pre-hypertensive and was told to watch my diet and stress. I was given a blood pressure monitor and told to monitor my blood pressure daily. It’s still something that I do, although I no longer do it daily. If you didn’t know, having hypertension puts you at a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and as a black woman, my risk was even higher at nearly 80%.
Here are a few high blood pressure facts that you may be unaware of:
- Every year in the United States, 860,000 individuals die from heart disease.
- Hypertension, the biggest risk factor for heart attack and stroke, affects 46 percent of individuals in the United States.
- In the United States, the prevalence of high blood pressure in Black women is about 40 percent greater than in white women, while the prevalence of high blood pressure in Black males is 22 percent higher than in white men.
- Among African-American individuals with high blood pressure, approximately 80 percent do not have their blood pressure managed to the recommended level.
- Hypertension is referred to as the “silent killer” because it frequently manifests itself without causing symptoms, despite the fact that it dramatically increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- The inability to control excessive blood pressure (BP) can result in a heart attack, a stroke, heart failure, and other life-threatening conditions.
- High blood pressure is the most prevalent preventable risk factor for stroke.
So, what are some of the signs of high blood pressure?
Feeling Tired All the Time
Feeling run down and exhausted can be a sign that your blood pressure is higher than it should be. If you’re not getting enough sleep or if you’re constantly stressed, these can also contribute to feeling tired.
This was always a sign for me that my blood pressure was spiking. I would get tension headaches that felt like someone was squeezing my head. If you take medication for migraines, pay attention to see if you’re getting them more often than usual, as that could be a sign of hypertension.
Dizziness and Lightheadedness
Dizziness and lightheadedness can also be signs of high blood pressure. If you find yourself feeling unsteady on your feet or if you feel like you’re going to faint, those could be signs that you need to check your blood pressure.
If any of these sound familiar to you, make an appointment with your doctor to get your blood pressure checked. It’s a simple test that only takes a few minutes, but it could save your life.
Over 80% of Black adults with high blood pressure do not have it under control, putting them at increased risk of heart attack and stroke. And it is something we are not comfortable with. Also unacceptable is the systematic racism that makes it more difficult for Black women to avoid and manage high blood pressure. But we’re not going to just sit here and take it, either.
The RTP Heart Health Squad will assist you in preserving your mental health and general well-being by providing you with information and resources. Small modifications can have a significant influence on your blood pressure management and could mean the difference between having a low risk of heart disease or stroke and having a high risk.
What can you do to help yourself?
Know Your BP Numbers
Your blood pressure is made up of two numbers. The first number, which is the upper number, is your systolic blood pressure. This is the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The second number, which is the lower number, is your diastolic blood pressure. This is the pressure in your arteries between beats.
A healthy BP should be below 120/80 mmHg. However, if you have other risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes or high cholesterol, you may need to aim for a lower number.
If you have hypertension or if you’re at risk for it, one of the best things that you can do is to get moving and stay active. Exercise helps to keep your heart healthy and can help to lower your blood pressure. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day can make a big difference.
Choose Healthy Foods
What you eat can also help to lower your blood pressure. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is good for your heart health and can help to lower your blood pressure. You should also limit sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars.
Cut Back on Alcohol
If you drink alcohol, it’s important to do so in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. For healthy adults, that means no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
Stress can also contribute to high blood pressure. If you’re constantly under stress, it can take a toll on your heart health. Learning to manage stress can help lower your blood pressure and protect your heart. If you’re feeling stressed, try some relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or yoga. You can also talk to your doctor about ways to manage stress.
Activate a Wellness Plan
Make a wellness plan that is tailored to your needs. Release The Pressure (RTP) provides tools for nutritious meals, physical activity, and meditation to assist you in putting together a plan for your own personal well-being.
If you have hypertension or if you’re at risk for it, taking steps to lower your blood pressure can help to prevent complications. Knowing the signs of high blood pressure is the first step in getting the treatment that you need. Making lifestyle changes, such as exercising more and eating a healthy diet, can also help to lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health.
Now it’s Time to Take the Pledge
You pour your heart and soul into everyone and everything you do. It’s time to put your heart first once again. Take the pledge to become one of the 50,000 heart-healthy adults who have agreed to receive educational material and take action to safeguard their heart health.