Take ‘Heart’ in February

February is American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness of heart disease, learn more about risk factors and work to maintain and improve heart health. Our goal at Senior Lifestyle is to help residents, families and team members attain good health, and sharing information from the American Heart Association is a great way to help us meet that goal.

Did you know that the guidelines for high blood pressure have changed? New guidelines published last November changed the official definition of hypertension to a reading of 130 for the top number or 80 for the bottom number from the former standard of 140/90. That means that the number of American adults with high blood pressure jumped from 32 percent under the old guidelines to almost 46 percent. That’s nearly half of all adults in the United States, a staggering 103 million people at increased risk for heart attacks and stroke. Why are these numbers important?

Cardiologist Dr. Kenneth Jamerson, an author of the high blood pressure guidelines, notes, “Before this guideline, if your blood pressure was at 130, you weren’t supposed to do anything.” Jamerson added, “With the new [high blood pressure] guideline, we’re having patients do something about it.” For his patients, that includes 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week and the DASH diet, plus medication if the patient has additional heart disease risk factors.

What’s this “DASH” diet? DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and it’s a lifelong approach to healthy eating designed to help treat or prevent hypertension. The DASH diet focuses on reducing sodium, being aware of portion size, and eating a variety of foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure, such as magnesium, potassium and calcium. Used in conjunction with a healthy exercise plan, the DASH diet can help reduce blood pressure by a few points in just two weeks, and it fits dietary recommendations to decrease the risk of osteoporosis, cancer, and diabetes, in addition to heart disease and stroke. The DASH diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy foods along with moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts, aiming to reduce the amount of sodium consumed daily from the average American’s consumption of 3,400 milligrams per day to 2,300 mg per day.

If you’re struggling to get your blood pressure in a healthy range, take heart, there are options to help you get back on track! Be sure to ask your healthcare provider about what strategies will work best for you, including the DASH diet, increased activity, and the possible addition of medication if you have additional risk factors for heart disease.  For more information about heart-healthy activities in a Senior Lifestyle community in your area, please visit our website at www.seniorlifestyle.com.

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