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High Blood Pressure

Agriculture.com Staff 07/06/2010 @ 5:18pm

Mike Townsend has spent years monitoring the pulse of agriculture. At 67, the Oakley, Illinois, farmer has seen lots of ups and downs. Despite market and weather fluctuations, he knows it's important to keep his blood pressure on an even keel.

Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mmHg. In 2003, new medical guidelines set a pre-hypertensive range of 120 to 139 systolic (top number) over 80 to 89 diastolic (bottom number). High blood pressure is a consistent reading of 140/90 or higher.

The National Institutes of Health reports two thirds of people over age 65 have high blood pressure. What's worse, many people remain undiagnosed. Often called the silent killer, there are no early warning symptoms.

"Farmers don't tend to have annual physicals, so our screenings often pick up abnormal blood pressure," says Carolyn Sheridan, AgriSafe Network and Spencer (Iowa) Hospital. "When we refer them to their doctors, there's often a need to address other big-picture health issues."

Untreated blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, or blindness. New studies indicate high blood pressure may raise the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Age, race, sex, and family history are four major uncontrollable risk factors. Following these four basic lifestyle steps can help you to avoid hypertension.

1. Get Regular Aerobic Exercise.
Moderate intensity aerobic exercise has been shown to drop systolic pressure by 10 to 11 mmHg and diastolic pressure by 7 to 8 mmHg. Walking, swimming, cycling, gardening, working in the yard, dancing, cleaning house, and golfing raise your pulse, expand your lungs, and work the heart and circulatory system.

2. Maintain A Healthy Weight.
Being only a bit overweight over time may raise the risk of developing high blood pressure, according to a study in the American Journal of Hypertension. Weight increases the amount of blood needed to carry oxygen and nutrients to organs and tissues, and this increases pressure against artery walls.

Following the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) for eight weeks can reduce blood pressure. A 10-pound weight loss shaves high blood pressure risk by 50% in individuals with a systolic reading of 130 to 139 mmHg.

3. Monitor Sodium Intake.
Most of the sodium in the American diet comes from processed foods and restaurants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises no more than 1,500 mg. daily. The DASH diet is most effective when combined with a low-sodium intake. Reading labels is one step toward curbing sodium.

4. Limit Alcohol.
Alcohol should be limited to under two drinks a day for men, one drink for women.

Home Monitoring Helps

"Only about one third of people diagnosed with high blood pressure have it under control," says David Goff, MD, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. "The evidence is quite strong tha home monitoring leads to better control."

Illustration: (c) Saniphoto, Dreamstime.com

Mike Townsend has spent years monitoring the pulse of agriculture. At 67, the Oakley, Illinois, farmer has seen lots of ups and downs. Despite market and weather fluctuations, he knows it's important to keep his blood pressure on an even keel.

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