Earlier this week, the American Heart Association released updated guidelines around detecting and managing high blood pressure, or hypertension. Hypertension is a major contributor to heart disease and stroke, and is absolutely preventable, but it’s called the silent killer for a reason. Because people don’t always experience acute symptoms that would lead them to seek treatment, they are more likely to ignore the warning signs and avoid caring for themselves. Lowering the threshold for Stage 1 is meant to increase awareness and encourage action.
Given these new guidelines (blood pressure reading of 130/80 registering as Stage 1), I find myself in the Stage 1 camp and I’m not alone. Nearly 50% of Americans are living with high blood pressure. Thankfully, knowing my family history, this isn’t news to me and is something I’ve been actively monitoring and managing for years.
So, for those of us living with hypertension, here are a few points to consider:
- Maintain Perspective. If you now find yourself within this new Stage 1 range, don’t panic. While this elevated level over time may not be ideal for your health, it is manageable and a not likely an immediate threat. Take that nervous energy and focus it on paying attention to what’s happening with your body and doing something about it.
- Know the Facts. Blood Pressure is just one of many factors I consider when seeing patients and assessing their overall health. Find a doctor you can work with who will invest in you: understand your family and health history, conduct a comprehensive assessment of your current health status and work with you to create a customized plan of attack. Start with the facts and lean on the experts to turn data into action.
- Know Your Options. With a diagnosis of High Blood Pressure, medication can be necessary but it’s not the only thing you can do. There are a number of lifestyle interventions that have proven to be very successful in managing and reducing hypertension. Healthy activity, smart eating, a great support system and the right outlook have proven time and again to make a significant difference in health outcomes – including heart health. Understand and explore all your options with your doctor before beginning any new medication regime.
- Take Charge. You are the CEO of your life – and your health. Whatever course of treatment you decide on, remember that you are in the driver’s seat. Don’t shy away from doing the tough work of making your health a priority. What you do matters. So, check your blood pressure on a regular basis. Make it a priority to move daily, eat wisely and actively manage your stress and your health. If you don’t have a team you can lean on, find one and use them.