May is high blood pressure education month, so we’d like to take some time to talk about it. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure directly ties into your pursuit of a healthy lifestyle at the fitness center. First, you may have heard that high blood pressure (also called hypertension) is one of the leading causes of stroke, and that stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the United States. But, what you may not realize is that high blood pressure doesn’t just show up in older adults – it affects roughly 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women ages 35 to 44.

Do you have high blood pressure? Let’s look at the symptoms and how to both treat and prevent it, whatever your age and health condition.

The symptoms?

The worst thing about high blood pressure is that’s very hard to detect. The American Heart Association affirms there are no hard-and-fast symptoms or tell-tale signs. No wonder an estimated 11 million adults with high blood pressure don’t even know it! That’s why it’s often referred to as the silent killer.

How to find out if you have high blood pressure

The only way to know for sure if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked at a free health event or by your primary physician. Learn your numbers and whether they place you at risk.

It’s also good to find out if you’re at risk for high blood pressure in the future based on your genetics and gender.  High blood pressure runs in families, so be aware if you have other family members with high blood pressure. When it comes to gender, it’s strangely more frequent among men until after the age of 45, when the rates even out. After 65, women are more likely to have high blood pressure.

Even if your genetics make you a prime candidate for high blood pressure, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it. It’s a condition that can be managed by the following four behaviors:

  • Maintaining a Healthy Diet
  • Maintaining a Healthy Weight
  • Staying active
  • Avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol

Diet, Weight & Activity

If you’ve spent much time at the fitness gym, you know how these all tie together. Although a term “healthy diet” is a flexible phrase that changes a little based on each person’s dietary needs, this generally means eating whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats while avoiding saturated fats and processed foods.

Changing your eating habits can affect your weight, but a healthy body composition (and heart) is best achieved in combination with 3 to 5 days of moderate cardio activity each week. Strength training further increases lean muscle mass while boosting the metabolism for greater fat-burning.

Smoking, Alcohol, and High Blood Pressure

Smoking is a significant health risk for many reasons, but especially for high blood pressure. If you currently smoke, look for a support group that can help you kick the habit using safe, proven methods. Although alcohol isn’t entirely bad for you, too much of it increases both the heart rate and blood pressure. Stick to moderate drinking levels: no more than 2 drinks a day for men under the age of 65, and 1 a day for women and men over 65. Not only is limiting alcohol good for your blood pressure, but it also cuts out extra calories to help you maintain a healthier body weight.

If you haven’t had your blood pressure checked in a while, have it done soon. Know your numbers, and know if you’re at risk for high blood pressure now or in the future. Most importantly, reduce your risk of high blood pressure and manage it by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, avoiding smoking and alcohol, and getting in regular workouts at the fitness center.