When was the last time you had your blood pressure (BP) checked? Do you know the difference between systole BP and diastole BP and what BP measurements mean for your health? Do you know your risk factors for hypertension and other cardiovascular disorders?
May is the month to start answering these questions. Since 1984, May has been proclaimed as the National Blood Pressure Awareness Month in the United States. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) also calls it the National High Blood Pressure Education Month.
Why is hypertension dangerous? High blood pressure is a major risk for serious cardiovascular disorders such as myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, heart failure, and kidney failure. Heart diseases and stroke are the leading causes of death in the US.
According to the CDC, approximately 73 million Americans have high blood pressure. The direct and indirect health care costs of high blood pressure were estimated to cost more than 69 billion dollars in 2008.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), you have high blood pressure or hypertension when:
The CDC also gives this definition:
“High blood pressure or hypertension is defined as having a systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher measured on two or more occasions, or taking anti-hypertensive medication. Normal blood pressure levels are considered to be a systolic blood pressure less than 120 mm Hg and a diastolic blood pressure less than 80 mm Hg. Persons with above normal levels (systolic blood pressure of 120-139 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure of 80-89 mm Hg) but are not hypertensive are considered to have “prehypertension.” These people are at a greater risk of developing hypertension than are persons with normal blood pressure levels.”
As part of its High Blood Pressure Awareness Month program, the AHA is inviting you to check, manage, and monitor your blood pressure with their free and easy-to use suite of online tools.
This is a web-based tool which allows you to manage your high blood pressure while also keeping track of your body weight, physical activity and more. The tool is a product of a successful AHA alliance with Microsoft and their new consumer health platform, Microsoft HealthVault which “helps us implement our vision around health information technology.”
With this downloadable and printable blood pressure tracking chart, you can track your blood pressure measurements and how they correspond to your weight and overall feeling of well-being. This is an important part of your Home Monitoring Plan after consultation with your doctor.
With the latest readings of your blood pressure, you can actually calculate your risks of dying from cardiovascular events such as a heart attack or a stroke, as well as your risks of developing heart failure and kidney disease.
With this tool, you can find out more about your condition and about treatments and strategies to help you manage your blood pressure. The tool gives you a confidential personalized report about your treatment options for your condition.
High Blood Pressure e-newsletter
Through this free, monthly e-newsletter, AHA brings you news, tips and even heart-friendly recipes not only on hypertension but also on related diseases such as heart disorders, diabetes, and obesity.
The AHA tools aim to help us understand our health risks, get some quick answers to basic questions about our blood pressure.
In addition, you can also take the high blood pressure quizzes of MayoClinic to find out whether you have your high blood pressure under control and whether you are doing everything you can to manage your hypertension.
The CDC has also been stepping up its efforts for high blood pressure through the
The CDC has also been stepping up its efforts for high blood pressure through the CDC’s State Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program.
“CDC currently funds health departments in 33 states and the District of Columbia to develop effective strategies to reduce the burden of heart disease, stroke, and related risk factors. This program emphasizes the need for policy, environmental, and systems changes that promote heart-healthy and stroke-free living and working conditions.”
I’ve personally tried the High Blood Pressure Risk Calculator and I’m happy with my results. However, getting good results doesn’t mean we should become complacent and forget about our blood pressure. Constant awareness and vigilance is necessary.
If your risk results are not optimal, then it’s probably time to talk to your doctor and discuss your options, including lifestyle changes that can help lower blood pressure and your health risks.
I must admit I am a bit disappointed with my performance on the blood pressure quizzes. It only goes to show again that complacency is something we cannot afford when it comes to our health. And that learning is a continuous process.
Yes, May is high blood pressure awareness month but we should not stop being on guard even when this month is over. Remember, blood pressure can change rather abruptly and with it your health status and your risks.