February is Heart Month, a time for us all to think about heart health for ourselves and those we love. Heart health is complicated and many factors contribute to it, but many of those factors are within our control.
High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. One in every six Americans has high blood pressure and for certain groups the rate is even higher. Two out of every five African Americans have high blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people with high blood pressure are 4 times more likely to die from a stroke and 3 times more likely to die from heart disease, compared to those with normal blood pressure.
So what can you do?
- Ask your doctor what your blood pressure should be and check it every few months. You can have it checked at your doctor or at your local pharmacy. If you have high blood pressure you may want to have a blood pressure cuff at home for regular monitoring.
- If you smoke, quit! Quitline Iowa can help. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
- If your doctor prescribes blood pressure medicine, take it as directed.
- Reduce the amount of sodium you eat. Follow these steps from the CDC to reduce sodium in your diet.
- Cook more food at home and eat less food from restaurants.
- Buy fresh, frozen (no sauce) or no salt added canned vegetables.
- Buy low sodium or reduced sodium versions of products like soups, sauces and ready-made dishes like flavored rice or pasta.
- Compare Nutrition Facts labels on food packages.
In next week’s blog we’ll feature some of the foods that sneak in way more sodium than you might expect! What new habit can you start this week that will make your heart happy and healthy?