HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: KEEP THE HIDDEN BURDEN OF HYPERTENSION AT BAY

Hypertension is a gateway to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and kidney disease.

Probably because of its interference with health, on average the life span of people with hypertension is five years shorter than that of people with normal blood pressure.

Hypertension directly leads to 60,000 deaths a year and contributes to another 300,000 deaths.

Quite naturally, if you’re working to control it, you’re burdened with concerns. You must reprogram your eating and exercise habits and begin a regimen of one or more pills a day, pills which may be expensive.

Spanish researchers uncovered another hidden burden associated with high blood pressure: its effect on survival after both admission and readmission to hospitals.

Over a 10-month period, they studied 1,007 men and women admitted to a hospital for any heart-related problem, including chest pain, fainting, heart attack, heart failure, atrial fibrillation and pericarditis.

In this group of patients, 69% had pre-existing hypertension before being admitted. At the end of one year, 17% of those with high blood pressure were dead compared to only 9% of those with normal blood pressure.

Patients rehospitalized for a cardiac problem had similar outcomes: 31% with pre-existing high blood pressure died within a year compared to only 18% with normal blood pressure.

There are many things you can do to keep your hypertension under control and even prevent the condition from developing. Here are the recommendations of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the American Heart Association:

Achieve & maintain a healthy weight for your height.

Exercise regularly.

Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Limit sodium intake to under 2,300 milligrams (one teaspoon) a day.

Get plenty of potassium (4,700 milligrams) a day.

Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.

Reduce stress.

Monitor your blood pressure regularly, and work with your doctor to keep it in a healthy range.

from Harvard Medical School Healthbeat June 7, 2012

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