May is High Blood Pressure Education Month, a great time to discover what the numbers mean and how to keep them in check.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure (BP) measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle contracts (systolic or the first number in a BP reading) and when it rests (diastolic or the second number). A normal BP reading is less than 120/80, according to the most recent guidelines released by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.

What is high blood pressure?

Elevated blood pressure or prehypertension occurs when your systolic number reads between 120-129. A systolic number over 130 and a diastolic above 80 means you have high blood pressure or hypertension.

Know your numbers for better heart health

Hypertension starts with no warning signs or symptoms. That’s why you should get your blood pressure checked regularly by your healthcare provider. You can also use the blood pressure cuffs at your local pharmacy or purchase a BP monitor to check at home.

Know the risks of high blood pressure

If your blood pressure climbs into an unhealthy range, you raise your risk for heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, heart failure or even early death. Medication can help get your numbers under control, but so can making simple changes to your lifestyle.

Eat heart-smart fare

Prevent or manage high blood pressure with healthy eating habits. Lower your salt intake, limit alcohol and fill up on fruit, veggies and whole grains. You can lower your systolic number by as much as 11 points simply by changing what you eat and drink.

Move for your heart’s sake

Regular physical activity such as walking, dancing or water aerobics can prevent hypertension. Aim for 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise each week. Consider getting a tracker or health app to help you make and reach fitness goals.

Learn to chill

Stress control can help lower hypertension. Consider starting a new hobby, taking up yoga or meditation, getting plenty of sleep, avoiding stressful triggers and focusing on issues you can control or resolve.

Step on a scale

Maintain a healthy weight for your blood pressure. Ask your primary care physician what range is best for you. Discuss a weight-loss program if you’re above a healthy weight.

Stamp out smoking

Did you know smoking raises your BP? Your blood pressure may return to normal if you give up cigarettes. Plus, you lower your risk of heart disease and boost your overall health when you quit smoking. The American Cancer Society has more information on steps you can take to kick this habit.

Save money with a healthy BP

People with high blood pressure incur almost $2,000 more a year in healthcare costs than people with a normal BP. What’s more, individuals with hypertension had higher inpatient costs and nearly double the outpatient costs. They also spent nearly triple the cost on prescription medications. Save money and start working towards a healthy BP range today.

Blood pressure screening is a key part of a comprehensive biometric assessment or health testing program. To learn how BioIQ helps employers launch successful health testing programs that identify risk, engage and motive employees, and reduce costs, please visit bioiq.com or call 888-818-1594.

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