Sometimes, I swear I can feel my blood pressure rising. It zips right on up with my stress level. Crossing the George Washington Bridge often enough will, I believe, put me on blood pressure medication for life. While that’s not actually true, the likelihood that I will one day be diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) is quite high. One in every four adults in the United States is hypertensive, and the rates are rising. By 2025, 1.56 billion people throughout the world are expected to have high blood pressure. That may not seem too alarming; high blood pressure alone can’t kill you. However, it can and does lead to health complications that do, including heart and kidney disease and stroke. Hypertension is a very serious problem, yet with each passing year the percentage of people with high blood pressure continues to increase. Why?
One of the first reasons is a lack of diagnosis, particularly in children. After studying more than 14,000 children between the ages of three and 18, researchers found that only a quarter of those with hypertension had actually been diagnosed. This means that a huge number of children, approximately 1.5 million in the United States, are walking around untreated. I can only imagine how many adults are in the same boat. However, just catching hypertension is not the end. Problems still exist, post-diagnosis, because many people believe that hypertension can be cured completely. They take the steps to lower their blood pressure, but as soon as it’s down, they revert to their old ways. The medication gets pushed to the back of the cabinet, and the bad habits return. Unfortunately, within a very short span of time, so does the hypertension.
Maintaining a healthy blood pressure involves making lasting changes in your daily life. You can head off hypertension or lower your level by doing a few simple things. As always, first make sure you are at a healthy weight and remaining physically active. You should also cut back on the sodium. It’s not hard to ingest far too much, so keep an eye on the labels and try alternatives to salt when you can. Remember it isn’t the only seasoning on your shelf. There are tons of other spices you can toss into a dish (curry powder, garlic, nutmeg, thyme . . .) that will add a boost of flavor without a boost of sodium. Last, make healthy choices. Opt for healthier foods and smaller portions. Moderation is crucial. And if you feel you need a little extra protection, there are plenty of products that can help. And of course, talk to your doctor. Stay informed. Know the risks. Make sure that the GW is the only reason your blood pressure is spiking.�
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