Blood pressure a key measure for health

High blood pressure can lead to heart and kidney disease.

The Michigan Health and Wellness 4x4 Plan is made up of four health behaviors and four health measures that can benefit every Michigan citizen. The plan was developed to combat the rising incidence of adult and child obesity in the state. By following the plan each of us can improve our health and avoid obesity.

The four health behaviors are: maintain a healthy weight, engage in regular exercise, get an annual physical exam and avoid all tobacco use and exposure. The four health measures are body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar/glucose level. Let’s take a look blood pressure.

In order to have a healthy heart, our blood pressure should be within a healthy range. Uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension) increases risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. What is a healthy blood pressure? As explained in the Michigan Health and Wellness 4x4 Plan, less than 120/80 is considered healthy or normal. A blood pressure between 120-139/80-89 is considered “pre-hypertension,” and a blood pressure of 140/90 or above is considered hypertension.

There are many factors that affect blood pressure, including the amount of water and salt in the body, the condition of the kidneys, nervous system or blood vessels, and/or hormones. Some people are more prone to high blood pressure than others, including those of African American descent, those who are obese, and people who suffer from stress and anxiety. Smoking, diabetes and eating a diet high in salt can also contribute to high blood pressure. Drinking too much alcohol can contribute as well. According to the National Institutes of Health, that would be more than one drink per day for women and more than two drinks per day for men. A family history of high blood pressure can also be a risk factor.

People with high blood pressure often experience no symptoms. That’s why it’s important to have blood pressure checked regularly. Unchecked high blood pressure can lead to heart disease and kidney problems.

“Pre-hypertension” is often managed through lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising, and quitting smoking. Blood pressure can also be controlled by limiting alcohol, limiting salt in the diet, and reducing stress. High blood pressure can be managed through medication prescribed by a health care provider.

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