Did you know: each month tends to have a few ‘National Health Observances’ that is designated by various organizations, and promoted across the USA? Some of the big ones that you have likely heard of are February: “heart month” and October as “breast cancer awareness month”. These campaigns are vital in the promotion and education of these health factors, and work towards keeping people healthy and informed.
On the flip side, there are also “fun” observances that can be found online. I found a website called “thenibble.com” that literally has a different food or beverage that is celebrated daily! Some of my favorites for May included:
May 13: National fruit cocktail day
May 15: National chocolate chip cookie day (HOW COOL!)
May 23: National taffy day
May 25: National wine day (Can I highlight and bold this one?)
And last, but not least: May 6—National no diet day J
Ok, enough of that shenanigans. The month of May is nationally recognized for being “blood pressure awareness” month. Maybe you have high blood pressure, or you know someone who does. Having high blood pressure is different than other illnesses and diseases. You don’t necessarily ‘know’ you have high blood pressure. You likely won’t have any pain or feel any side effects (unless your pressure is REALLY high, and/or it has been going on for a period of time and it has affected other body systems). Because of this, it’s been coined “The silent killer”.
First off, high blood pressure itself will not kill you, per say. After a period of time with high blood pressure, it will start to wreak havoc on your artery walls, and is a big proponent of stroke risk and other health concerns. If a stroke isn’t scary enough, high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease and heart attacks and aids in buildup of plaque in the arteries. High blood pressure also affects other organ systems—such as the kidneys.
Second, there are many controllable factors that we can do daily to help or even prevent high blood pressure. Diet, exercise, reducing stress, avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol intake are all ways we can help keep our blood pressure numbers low. Sometimes, we are genetically pre-disposed to high blood pressure BUT that doesn’t mean we should stop taking proactive measures to keep ourselves as healthy as we can!
Lastly, it’s easy to stay on top of where your numbers are at, and if you should be concerned. If you have a doctor’s appointment, you will likely have your blood pressure taken. Donating blood? You will have it checked there also. There are also many free opportunities (Fort HealthCare provides free blood pressure checks monthly) at various health care organizations and even at local stores (Walgreens and Wal-Mart come to mind). The test takes no more than a minute, and much information is given with those two numbers!
What’s the next step if, let’s say, your numbers come back higher than you would like? Blood pressure, as mentioned prior, is one of those conditions that we can have a big impact with our lifestyle. It’s important to talk with your doctor about your findings with blood pressure, and they can offer the best suggestions for keeping the numbers under control.
Changes such as exercising 30 minutes or more a day for most days of the week, eating a well-balanced diet with reduced sodium, not smoking, keeping an eye on our alcohol intake and practicing stress management techniques are all ways that you incorporate into your everyday life that can have a lasting impact, and help to keep your blood pressure numbers low.
There are blood pressure medications available, and they may be necessary to keep your pressure at a level that will not cause concern for other health ailments. Using lifestyle adjustments to further better your health is a smart move to give yourself the best chance at keeping the numbers at a desirable level.
If you are told by a healthcare provider that you have high blood pressure concerns, it is in your best interest to make the changes necessary to bring the numbers back in control—even if you don’t “feel” like you have something wrong with you. Blood pressure can be controlled easier than let’s say a stroke or heart attack, when the damage is already done and possible irreversible.
Small steps, all in the right direction, are better than no steps at all. Find what you CAN control today and give yourself the best health possible.