| Tue, May 27, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

Get Informed: High Blood Pressure and You

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

high blood pressureHigh blood pressure, or hypertension, can be a life-or-death health concern. When it goes untreated, it can damage arteries and vital organs in your body. According to the American Heart Association, more than 76 million Americans have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

But let’s focus for a minute on the people who haven’t been diagnosed. The fact is that you can have high blood pressure for years without knowing it. Why? Because most of the time, there are no symptoms. That’s why high blood pressure is sometimes called the “silent killer.”

That means that it’s important to get educated about the risks of high blood pressure and what you can do. May is National Blood Pressure Education Month, so the time is right to get started with some basic questions and answers on blood pressure.

Q: What is blood pressure?

A: Blood pressure is the force against your artery (blood vessel) walls when your heart pumps blood through your body. That pressure is determined by the force and amount of blood pumped, and the size and flexibility of your arteries.

Q: How’s my blood pressure measured?

A: Your blood pressure is usually represented by two numbers. They tell you the amount of force pushing against your artery walls when your heart is squeezing blood and when your heart is resting. Someone with readings of 120 and 80 would have a blood pressure written as “120/80,” and spoken as “120 over 80.”

Q: How does high blood pressure hurt my body?

A: If the force of your blood flow is often high, the tissue that makes up your artery walls gets stretched beyond its healthy limit. This can damage your arteries, heart and kidneys, and even cause memory loss. High blood pressure is one cause of strokes, heart attacks and heart failure.

Q: Am I at risk?

A: You might be at higher risk for high blood pressure if you…

  • Are older
  • Have a relative with high blood pressure
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Don’t exercise
  • Smoke
  • Have high cholesterol
  • Have diabetes

Q: What should I do?

A: The first thing you need to do is know your numbers. Go to the doctor to get your blood pressure checked. If you have high blood pressure, you can make a plan with your doctor to works towards a healthy blood pressure.

Here are a few other things you can do to help maintain a healthy blood pressure as you age:

1. Take your meds. If your doctor prescribes medication to control your blood pressure, take it. If you’re having trouble taking it (because of cost, side effects or for some other reason), talk to your doctor about other options.

2. Quit smoking. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. And if you do, make a plan to quit.

3. Eat a healthy diet. Take in lots of whole grains, lean proteins and fruits and vegetables. Avoid foods high in sodium and saturated fat.

4. Keep active. Try to get 30 minutes of physical activity most days during your week.

5. Manage your stress. Enough sleep and exercise can help. You might also want to look into mind/body activities like tai chi, yoga or meditation.

To learn more about high blood pressure and heart disease, take a look at this video:

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Information on National High Blood Pressure Education Month at the CDC.

Your Guide to Medicare’s Preventive Services: Read this publication or hear it read in 3 different podcasts, all posted on Medicare.gov.

Medicare & You: The U.S. government’s official Medicare handbook, available online.

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