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FOR RELEASE: May 20, 2004  
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Know Your High Blood Pressure Numbers in May
May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month
(Part 3 in a Series)

Knowing to call 911 in an emergency can save your life. So can knowing your blood pressure numbers. Hopefully, your blood pressure numbers are less than 120/80mmHg, which is normal. If they are not, take advantage of National High Blood Pressure Education Month to ask your doctor what you should do about your blood pressure numbers. Then do it, officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) advise.

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries and other blood vessels. It rises and falls during the day. When it stays elevated over time, it becomes a life-threatening condition - high blood pressure, also called hypertension. High blood pressure will eventually injure the blood vessels in the heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes. This may result in heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and blindness.

Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers - the systolic pressure which is the force of the blood pressure against the artery walls as the heart beats, over the diastolic pressure which is the force of the blood as the heart relaxes between beats. A blood pressure level of 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered high. If your blood pressure is between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg, you have prehypertension. This means that even though you don’t have high blood pressure now, your chances of having a heart attack or stroke are increased.

Nearly half of Oklahoma adults over age 65 have ever been diagnosed with high blood pressure. If you do not have high blood pressure at age 55, you face a 90 percent chance of developing it during your remaining lifetime. So high blood pressure is a condition that most people have at some point in their lives.

Fortunately, high blood pressure can be prevented and controlled. Often lifestyle changes can prevent or control it. OSDH recommends the following:

  • Lose weight, if necessary, and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Be physically active.
  • Eat less salt and sodium.
  • Follow an eating plan rich in fruits and vegetables and low fat dairy foods, moderate in total fat and cholesterol, and low in saturated fat.
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.

If these lifestyle changes are not enough to reduce your blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medication. Work closely with your doctor to find the best dose and the best medication for you, and then take your medication as your doctor prescribes.

Remember, knowing your blood pressure numbers and then making lifestyle changes and, if necessary, taking appropriate medications can save your life.

For more information on how to prevent or control high blood pressure, visit “Your Guide to Controlling High Blood Pressure” online at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/index.html or contact the OSDH Chronic Disease Service at 405/271-4072 or your local health department for more information on high blood pressure.

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