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Sep 19, 2018

Experts Stress the Importance of a Healthy Blood Pressure and Weight

Even small changes toward better health can have a large impact on preventing heart disease.

Keeping your weight and blood pressure in check can go a long way in helping to prevent heart disease, based on a health promotions series published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The special series focuses on cardiovascular risk factors that we can control, such as weight and blood pressure, to empower individuals to improve their own health. While we can’t control everything that impacts our risk for heart disease like age and family history, there are many risk factors that are well within our control. Research shows that simple steps like eating healthy and staying active can go a long way in reducing our risk for heart disease—the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States.

Two of the recent articles in the health promotion series focused on weight and blood pressure, both of which have a big impact on heart health.

According to authors, overweight and obesity have reached epidemic levels and currently affect nearly three-quarters of adults in the United States. It’s well established that obesity increases risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and inflammation, all of which can lead to heart disease. Preventing obesity is one of best ways we can help reduce that risk.

For adults, that means staying active and getting at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Children require even more exercise and current guidelines recommend at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily.

Healthy eating is also key to preventing obesity, and experts note that having a healthy overall diet is more important than including or restricting specific items.

For individuals that need to lose weight, diet and exercise are a great way to start. However, experts note that medication and weight loss surgery can be useful for obese individuals who have struggled to lose weight with lifestyle changes alone.

As for high blood pressure, which also increases risk for heart disease, a healthy lifestyle remains a must. Authors note that risk factors for high blood pressure include overweight/obesity and poor lifestyle choices like an unhealthy diet and not enough physical activity. Consuming too much salt and excess amounts of alcohol are also known to raise blood pressure and increase risk for hypertension.

In the recent health promotion series, experts call for a “chronic care model,” which involves a multilevel approach to prevent and control high blood pressure. That means educating individuals about how to prevent high blood pressure, as well as screening individuals for hypertension and offering guidance and treatment for patients with this condition.

With these steps, individuals can help take control of their health and significantly reduce their risk for heart disease. According to authors, even small changes in reducing obesity and hypertension rates can have an enormous impact on improving U.S. health.


Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a healthy weight for me?
  • A few important tools can be used to determine if an individual is underweight, normal weight or overweight. The easiest tool is a Body Mass Index, which is calculated using height and weight to estimate levels of body fat. However, Body Mass Index is not always accurate, particularly among individuals with extremely high or low amounts of muscle. In these cases, measuring waist circumference is helpful in assessing weight, as a waist circumference greater than 35 inches for a woman or 40 inches for a man is considered unhealthy.
  • What is hypertension?
  • Hypertension, often referred to as high blood pressure, occurs when the force of blood against the artery walls is too high. High blood pressure is often referred to as the “silent killer,” because it often causes no symptoms and if left uncontrolled, increases risk for heart attack and stroke.

Infographic: High Blood Pressure

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