May is American Stroke Month and a key time to help educate individuals on their risk of the number fourth cause of death in America. Did you know that managing your blood pressure is the most important thing you can do to help reduce your chances of suffering from a stroke?
Many individuals don't consider themselves to be candidates for high blood pressure, or know what to look for in terms of risk factors, which is why the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association has identified the seven top factors, listed below, that contribute to high blood pressure.
- Family History: You share your dad's hair color and your mom's height but did you know that's not all you share in regards to your genetics? If your parents or a close blood relative have suffered from high blood pressure in the past, it puts you at risk as well. Do your research and get to know your family tree and your loved ones medical history.
- Advanced Age: As we get older, we shouldn't be too concerned with the wrinkles we're showing. We all develop a risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. Blood vessels lose flexibility during the aging process which contributes to increasing pressure in your cardiovascular system.
- Gender Related Risk Patterns: Who would have known? Men tend to have a higher percentage of high blood pressure than women until age 45. Between ages 45 to 50 and 55 to 64, the percentages between men and women with high blood pressure are similar. After age 64, women have a much higher percentage of high blood pressure than men.
- Lack of Physical Activity: It's time to stop making excuses and get out and get moving. An inactive lifestyle increases your chances of having high blood pressure. Give yourself the gift of improved health and lower your blood pressure naturally with regular exercise.
- Poor Diet: Let's face it, we all need good nutrition to care for our bodies. A diet that's high in calories, fats and sugars and low in essential nutrients contributes to poor health. In addition, a diet that's high in salt is also a contributing factor to having high blood pressure. Salt keeps excess fluid in the body that can add to the burden on the heart. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association recommends you keep your sodium intake to less than 1500 mg per day.
- Weight: Don't have a fear of the scale - embrace it. Knowing your ideal weight for your height could help save your life and lower your risk for high blood pressure. Over two-thirds of American adults are overweight which causes excess strain on the heart, raises blood cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol levels. Just by losing as little as 10 to 20 pounds if you are overweight, can help you take control and lower your high blood pressure.
- Drinking too much alcohol: Yes, you've had a stressful day, but is that extra glass of wine worth it? Heavy and regular use of alcohol can increase your blood pressure dramatically. It can also cause heart failure, lead to stroke and produce irregular heartbeats. If you drink, limit your alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink per day for women.
Take time for yourself and schedule an appointment with your physician to discuss your possible risk factors and what you can do to curb high blood pressure and reduce heart disease and stroke risks.