It’s a routine part of any visit to a doctor’s office or clinic: the blood pressure check. The nurse attaches a cuff to your upper arm, inflates it and records systolic (pressure in blood vessels when heart beats) and diastolic (pressure in blood vessels when heart rests) levels. The whole process takes just a few moments, yet it has the potential to be one of the most important health tests you have, especially if you are African-American.
According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure begins earlier in life for African-Americans and is usually more severe. While about half of Americans have the condition, about 59 percent of African-American men and 56 percent of African-American women are affected by it.
Left untreated, high blood pressure can cause strokes, heart disease, heart attacks and kidney failure. It’s called the “silent killer” because there often are no warning signs and most people who have it are unaware that they do.
Schedule a check during National Minority Health Month.
April is recognized by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department as National Minority Health Month. Now is a good time to schedule an annual doctor visit and learn all your critical health numbers, including blood pressure. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can develop slowly over time, so it’s important to have it measured regularly. Talk with your doctor to understand your risk factors and discuss whether your blood pressure is in a healthy range.
Tips to help manage hypertension.
Although there is no cure for high blood pressure, there are many steps you can take to actively manage the condition, according to the American Heart Association. As further support for lifestyle changes, your doctor may prescribe medication to help get your blood pressure under control.
Consider some ways to help manage your blood pressure:
- Maintain a healthier weight. Keep an eye on your Body Mass Index, which uses your height and weight to estimate your body fat. Ask your doctor what a healthy BMI is for you.
- Eat nutritious foods such as vegetables, fruit, lean meat, low-fat dairy, fish and whole grains. Limit your intake of salt and limit foods high in sodium, which can elevate blood pressure.
- Get your heart pumping. The American Heart Association’s recommendation for lowering blood pressure is an average of 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity three to four days per week.
- Limit alcohol. If you choose to drink, have no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two for men.
- Manage stress. Find tension-relievers that work for you, like mindfulness, creative activities, brisk walks or hobbies.
If you haven’t had your blood pressure checked lately, schedule an appointment today. It just may help save your life.