High Blood Pressure Education Month is a national effort to raise awareness about the impact of hypertension on the health of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high blood pressure, or hypertension, increases your risk for heart disease and stroke—the leading causes of death in the U.S.
- Nearly half of adults in the U.S. (108 million, or 45%) have hypertension (defined as a systolic blood pressure ≥ 130 mm Hg or a diastolic blood pressure ≥ 80 mm Hg) or are taking medication for hypertension.
- Only about 1 in 4 adults (24%) with hypertension have their condition under control.
- High blood pressure was a primary or contributing cause of death for more than 494,873 people in the United States in 2018
- High blood pressure costs the U.S. about $131 billion each year, averaged over 12 years from 2003 to 2014.
There exist both controllable and uncontrollable risk factors for high blood pressure. Uncontrollable risk factors include:
- Family history. Hypertension tends to run in families.
- Age. Your risk for hypertension increases as you age. High blood pressure is more common in men until about age 64. After age 65, women are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
- Race. High blood pressure is particularly common among people of African heritage, often developing at an earlier age than it does in whites. Serious complications, such as stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure, also are more common among this group.
Certain medical conditions can raise your risk for hypertension—including having diabetes or having blood pressure that is slightly higher than normal. Statistics show 6 out of 10 people with diabetes also have high blood pressure.
Lifestyle choices may play a role in high blood pressure. But the good news is you can take action to lessen your risk. Controllable risk factors include:
- Unhealthy Diet
Eating too much sodium and not enough potassium puts you at risk. Most sodium in our diets comes from packaged, processed foods. Eating these foods less often can help reduce sodium intake, lower blood pressure and/or prevent high blood pressure from developing in the first place.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting sodium intake to no more than 1,500 mg per day while aiming for at least a 1,000 mg per day reduction to improve blood pressure and heart health.
Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. Ideal sources of potassium include fruits and vegetables. Some high-potassium foods include bananas, potatoes, beans, and yogurt.
- Lack of Physical Activity
In addition to helping your heart and blood vessels stay strong, regular physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight… and help lower blood pressure. The AHA recommends getting at least 90 to 150 minutes of aerobic and/or dynamic resistance exercise per week and/or three sessions of isometric resistance exercises per week.
Being obese or overweight means your heart must work harder to pump blood and oxygen around your body. In addition to high blood pressure, obesity can lead to heart disease and diabetes. The AHA recommends a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9. Individuals who are obese should talk with their healthcare provider about lowering their weight to a healthy level.
- Too Much Alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure by several points as well as reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications if you take them. Drink only in moderation—generally one drink a day for women, or two a day for men. Keep in mind that one drink equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
- Tobacco Use
Tobacco use increases your risk for hypertension. Smoking can damage the heart and blood vessels. Nicotine raises blood pressure, and breathing in carbon monoxide (which is produced from smoking tobacco) reduces the amount of oxygen the blood can carry. Quit smoking to reduce your risk of heart disease, improve your overall health, and help you live longer.
Have high blood pressure? Mom’s Meals can help ensure you’re getting the nutrition you need to fuel a healthy lifestyle. Your diet is one risk factor you CAN control to keep high blood pressure in check. In particular, check our lower sodium and heart-friendly menus—they’re designed by our professional chefs and registered dietitians.
Hypertension Cascade: Hypertension Prevalence, Treatment and Control Estimates Among US Adults Aged 18 Years and Older Applying the Criteria From the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association’s 2017 Hypertension Guideline—NHANES 2013–2016 external icon. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hypertension Cascade: Hypertension Prevalence, Treatment and Control Estimates Among US Adults Aged 18 Years and Older Applying the Criteria From the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association’s 2017 Hypertension Guideline—NHANES 2013–2016external icon. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Underlying Cause of Death, 1999–2018. CDC WONDER Online Database. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2018.http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html. Accessed March 12, 2020.
Kirkland EB, Heincelman M, Bishu KG, et. al. Trends in healthcare expenditures among US adults with hypertension: national estimates, 2003-2014. J Am Heart Assoc. 2018;7:e008731.
National High Blood Pressure Education Program. The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure Bethesda, MD: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; 2003.