Understanding and Controlling Your Blood Pressure

About 74.5 million people in the United States have high blood pressure, which is also called hypertension. May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, but high blood pressure is a year-round health challenge for every American. Hypertension increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, the first- and third-leading causes of death in the United States.

Who Has High Blood Pressure?

  • Almost 90% of adults aged 45–64 years will develop high blood pressure during the remainder of their lifetime.
  • About 25% of American adults aged 20 years or older have pre-hypertension.
  • One in three U.S. adults aged 20 years or older has hypertension.
  • Nearly one in five people has hypertension and is not aware that they have it.
  • In the United States, high blood pressure is more common among blacks than whites. About 44% of black women have high blood pressure.
  • Mexican-Americans have the lowest level of hypertension control compared to non-Hispanic whites and blacks.

Blood pressure is written as two numbers. The first (systolic) number represents the pressure when the heart beats. The second (diastolic) number represents the pressure when the heart rests between beats. Blood pressure that is slightly higher than normal is called pre-hypertension. People with pre-hypertension are more likely to develop high blood pressure than are people with normal blood pressure levels.

Why controlling your blood pressure is important

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease. It is a primary or contributing cause of death for more than 300,000 Americans every year, and nearly 45 million people visit their doctor for high blood pressure-related issues annually.

You can maintain healthy blood pressure through changing your lifestyle or by combining lifestyle changes with prescribed medications.

Key lifestyle changes include the following:

  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly.
  • Maintain a normal body weight (body mass index of 18.5-24.9).
  • Keep up physical activity (two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest,  shoulders, and arms).
  • Follow a healthy eating plan including a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and low in sodium.
  • Quit smoking.
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation (no more than two drinks per day for men and one or fewer drinks per day for women).
  • If you have high blood pressure and are prescribed medication(s), take as directed.
  • Reduce sodium intake. A diet high in sodium (salt) increases the risk for higher blood pressure. About 77% of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed and restaurant foods.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!