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High blood pressure remains a silent killer, especially among African Americans

If you haven’t seen your doctor lately, you’re probably unaware that you could have high blood pressure, which means your life is at risk. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), about half of American adults have high blood pressure, and most are unaware that they have it.

High blood pressure – also called hypertension – is known as the “silent killer” because it can emerge with no warning signs and cause stroke, heart disease, heart attacks and kidney failure. There is also a financial cost. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says high blood pressure costs the nation $46 billion each year which includes health care services, medications, and missed days of work.

High blood pressure is especially dangerous for African Americans. According to the AHA, high blood pressure begins earlier in life and is usually more severe in African Americans, with 59 percent of men and 56 percent of women affected. Common theories as to why this is the case are genetic factors and higher rates of obesity and diabetes.

While April is recognized by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department as National Minority Health Month, it is always a good time to schedule an annual doctor visit and learn your critical health numbers such as blood pressure.

Since high blood pressure can develop slowly over time, it’s important to have it measured regularly. Talk with your doctor to understand your risk factors and discuss whether your blood pressure is in a healthy range.

Although there is no cure for high blood pressure, here are tips to best manage the condition.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Keep an eye on your Body Mass Index, which uses your height and weight to estimate your body fat. Ask your doctor what a healthy BMI is for you.

  • Eat healthy foods such as vegetables, fruit, lean meat, low-fat dairy, fish and whole grains. Avoid salt and limit foods high in sodium that elevate blood pressure, while adding potassium to your diet.

  • Get your heart pumping and MOVE. Combine aerobic exercise — for a recommended 90 to 150 minutes every week — with resistance exercises.

  • Limit alcohol. If you choose to drink, do so only in moderation. That means no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two for men.

  • Manage stress. Find tension-relievers that work for you. Maybe that’s reading a book, listening to music or doing deep breathing. Exercise like a brisk walk is a proven stress buster too. And since it’s also a plus for healthy blood pressure, consider it doubly good.

If lifestyle changes don’t work, your doctor may prescribe medicine to help get your blood pressure numbers under control. If you haven’t seen your doctor lately, schedule an appointment today. It may just save your life.

For more easy-to-understand information about health and wellness, visit the UHC Newsroom.

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