Volume 2, Number 7 - July 14, 2000
High Blood Pressure


   You may be suffering from a potentially fatal disease and not even know it. High blood pressure or hypertension is also known as the 'silent killer.' It affects 60 million adults in the United States alone.

   An elevated blood pressure means the heart and arteries are working under a strain that, in time, can result in a number of devastating problems such as strokes or heart, kidney and eye disease.

   The only way to determine if you suffer from high blood pressure is to test for it. Patients with hypertension often don't show any symptoms of the disease and, therefore, don't think they have any reason to take preventive measures.

   Hypertension is implicated in three of every four strokes and heart attacks. If you have high blood pressure, take steps to treat it now so that years of neglect don't catch up with you later.

   The disease is easily treatable with medication or, in many cases, with simple lifestyle changes. Here are some changes you can make to lower your pressure:

  • Cut down on salt. While salt is not necessarily to blame for high blood pressure, consuming less of it helps a significant number of hypertension patients. Watch especially for the salt lurking in fast food or canned goods. The American Heart Association advises a maximum of 3,000 milligrams (1-11/2 teaspoons) a day, while the National Research Council suggests no more than 3,300 milligrams. For salt-sensitive hypertensives, healthcare professionals recommend an even more reduced salt intake of fewer than 1,150 milligrams daily.
  • Get enough calcium. Daily doses of calcium supplements or calcium-rich foods are integral to preventing you from becoming salt-sensitive.
  • Exercise. A brisk daily walk or a light workout every other day can be enough to lower blood pressure.
  • Lose weight. Take off excess pounds to reduce the burden on your overworked heart and arteries.
  • Relax. Take time to consciously relax several times a day. Find ways to better cope with sources of stress in your life.
  • Eat more fish. Some research has shown that eating deep-water fish, such as mackerel and tuna, two or three times a week can help control blood pressure.
  • Don't drink water that has been through a softener. It might contain high levels of sodium.
  • Eat bananas. A lack of potassium in the diet has been shown to contribute to hypertension. In addition to bananas, foods high in potassium include cantaloupe, orange juice and baked potatoes.
  • If your parents or siblings have high blood pressure, watch for symptoms more carefully. The condition runs in families.
Information provided by First Draft.