Blood is carried from the heart to all parts of the body in vessels called arteries. Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. High blood pressure has no symptoms, and is sometimes called “the silent killer.” If you have high blood pressure (also called hypertension), the heart is forced to work harder, arteries are overworked and the chances of stroke, heart attack and kidney problems are greater. In addition, if you have a pre-existing condition such as coronary heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or diabetes, you are at an even greater risk for complications.
Key facts (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
- About one out of three U.S. adults has high blood pressure.
- High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease.
- In 2010, high blood pressure cost the United States $76.6 billion in health care services, medications, and missed days of work.
In addition, a recent study showed that home health monitoring may significantly improve blood pressure control. Patients in the home monitoring group were 50 percent more likely to have their blood pressure controlled to healthy levels compared to the usual care group. (The study was led by Kaiser Permanente - Colorado in collaboration with the American Heart Association and Microsoft Corp.)
“The one critical step we’d like to educate people about to help improve their long-term health during heart health month is taking ownership of managing blood pressure to their personal goal,” said Michael Fleming, M.D., FAAFP and chief medical officer for Amedisys. “Your blood pressure impacts everything else in your body since it indicates how your blood is flowing - so no matter your existing condition, keeping your blood pressure at your personal goal is one of the most important leading indicators for maintaining your health,” he concluded.
Dr. Fleming also provides three important steps to help you take ownership of managing your blood pressure during heart health month and beyond:
a) Book an appointment with your doctor to talk about your blood pressure. Ask your doctor what is your goal for a healthy blood pressure. It can vary based on your health status. If your blood pressure is higher than desired, discuss a plan of action to keep it under control. Take notes from the conversation, including your personal blood pressure goal and your blood pressure management plan.
b) Monitor your blood pressure and keep a record. High blood pressure has no symptoms. So if you have hypertension, talk to your healthcare provider about monitoring your blood pressure at home. When you go for your health visits, make sure your health care provider checks your blood pressure each time and that you record what it is.
c) Follow the basic high blood pressure prevention guidelines: Stop smoking, eat healthy foods, maintain a healthy body weight, exercise and limit your salt intake.
To help you take ownership of managing your blood pressure, Amedisys has provided this downloadable tool that includes questions to ask your doctor about your blood pressure.