When it comes to high blood pressure, what do you know besides that it’s “bad?” The American Heart Association estimates one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, and high blood pressure costs Americans $46 billion annually. Understanding the hows and whys of blood pressure can not only help you stay healthy but also save you money.
Blood Pressure 101
Understanding your blood pressure starts with knowing your blood pressure numbers and whether they fall within a healthy range. Usually, your doctor will take your blood pressure during your physical, but even your pharmacist can take a reading for you. Check out AHA’s guide to blood pressure numbers to see where you fall. Typically anything over 120 over 80 indicates pre-hypertension or high blood pressure. High blood pressure usually doesn’t present outward symptoms, so it’s important to get it checked often, especially as you get older.
Like a garden hose turned on full blast, high blood pressure can put some serious wear-and-tear on your heart and blood vessels over time. High blood pressure not only increases your risk for heart attacks and strokes, it also can lead to vision impairment, kidney damage, sexual dysfunction, and angina (chest pain).
Causes of high blood pressure
There are several contributors to high blood pressure, and your age is one of the biggest. Men are usually more at risk until age 45, and women are usually more likely to have high blood pressure after age 65. African Americans have a higher risk of high blood pressure at all ages compared to Latinos or whites.
Several research studies have found that body mass index (BMI) and alcohol consumption are strongly and independently related to high blood pressure, meaning if you’re overweight and/or consume more alcohol than recommended, you’re more likely to have high blood pressure.
Salt (or sodium, which is part of the chemical content of salt) is often maligned as a cause of high blood pressure, but recent analyses suggest moderate consumption (1-2 rounded teaspoons per day) doesn’t increase your risk and consuming too little salt is actually more dangerous. Research also shows high potassium intake is related to lower blood pressure and fewer cardiovascular events. So just say no to bland food, and yes to more beans, Swiss chard, and other potassium-rich foods!
Costs of high blood pressure
Like other chronic health conditions, research shows high blood pressure adds to your cost of living — $736 to $1,226 per person, per year, on average. These numbers represent what it costs to visit the doctor more often and cover medications to lower blood pressure, but if you have high blood pressure, you’ll need to also factor in higher health and life insurance premiums, not to mention the costs of possibly having a heart attack or stroke. Keeping your blood pressure within a healthy range thus makes good financial sense.
What steps have you taken to lower your blood pressure? Leave us a comment.
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