1st key to healthy living: Check blood pressure

Over the next 10 months, PPG employees will be receiving important information about the "10 Keys to Healthy Living & Aging." The first key revolves around blood pressure:

1. Check blood pressure regularly.

Blood pressure, simply stated, is the force with which blood pumps through the body. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) places an extra burden on the heart and blood vessels. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms and is often referred to as "the silent killer." It can result in heart attack, stroke, age-related dementia, memory loss, kidney failure and congestive heart failure.

Risk factors that could lead to high blood pressure include: obesity, high-sodium diet, inactivity, tobacco use, drinking alcohol, age, race and heredity.

High blood pressure is a serious condition requiring lifelong treatment – medication and lifestyle changes.

A blood-pressure measurement reflects both systolic pressure (pressure when the heart is pumping) and diastolic pressure (when the heart is resting).

The best blood pressure is the level at which your risk is lowest. In adults, the ideal systolic pressure is at or below 120 and the diastolic pressure at 80: 120/80.

Take action , if necessary, to lower your blood pressure:

Step 1: Know and record your numbers. Monitor your blood pressure over time and record your numbers on a wallet card or personal health record.

Step 2: Talk with your doctor. Be prepared: Bring your numbers to all doctor appointments. Ask questions: Ask the doctor to explain your diagnosis and provide specific recommendations for lifestyle changes and medications. Share your thoughts: Discuss your concerns and plan of lifestyle change with your doctor.

Step 3: Modify your lifestyle. Maintain a healthy weight: If overweight, set a weight-loss goal. Be physically active: Engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Heart-healthy eating: Have a diet low in saturated fats. Include five or more fruits and vegetables, and lower-fat or fat-free dairy products.

Step 4: Take medicine as directed. For the best blood-pressure control, combine lifestyle habits and medications.
The 10 Keys to Healthy Living & Aging program was developed by the Center for Healthy Aging, Graduate School of Public Health, at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

For more information on high blood pressure, visit http://www.healthyaging.pitt.edu/

( 10 Keys to Healthy Living & Aging is a trademark of the Center for Healthy Aging, Graduate School of Public Health, at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.)