Look After Your Blood Pressure

Hypertension has long been called the “silent killer” as it may have no symptoms and can go undetected for years. This is why it is imperative to have your blood pressure checked. It is easy now to check your own as most pharmacies have automatic machines. The hard part is following up with an M.D. when you get moderate and high readings.

There is mounting evidence that uncontrolled high blood pressure is a significant risk factor for later-life dementia. Those who don’t control their blood pressure in their 50s and 60s could very well be dealing with cognitive decline when they are older due to the latest evidence coming from brain scans. We all know what bigger strokes can do to us but what the research is showing is the damage done by the very tiny strokes that we are not even aware we are having. Many people who have not had big strokes still have evidence of small brain infarcts which sometimes can only be seen microscopically during an autopsy. These mini-strokes do matter, and studies have shown the more micro-infarcts evident on autopsy correlates with lower cognitive scores before death. So it seems that these silent and unfelt vascular accidents may contribute to dementia. Hypertension damages our vascular system and can lead to heart failure as well.

As we all know most vascular diseases are driven by hypertension and diabetes and both can be controlled entirely or in part by diet, exercise, weight control and if necessary medication.

Five dietary suggestions for hypertension management and prevention are:

The DASH dietary pattern (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is highly recommended for hypertension prevention, control and management. This dietary regime is recommended by the American Heart Association and the National Cancer Institute as well. This overall eating plan focuses on eating twice the average daily amounts of fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates and low-fat dairy products.

Regulate daily calorie intake. Weight maintenance or reduction should be a primary goal and could reduce the need for drug treatment. Portion control is your first step.

Reduce salt in your diet. High blood pressure is directly correlated with sodium (salt) intake. For healthy individuals, the recommended sodium intake is no more than 2,300 milligrams per day, but those with certain health issues may be restricted to no more than 1,500 per day. Keeping your salt intake to these levels is extremely difficult, and you must be diligent about reading nutrition labels on foods. Canned, processed and frozen meals are commonly high in salt. Making foods from scratch is your best bet. Once you get used to not having the extra sodium in your diet, you won’t miss it and in fact will probably learn to not like salty food as well. We must choose minimally processed foods, avoid nitrates and start to read labels.

Take certain supplements if not getting an adequate amount in the foods you eat. Adequate intakes of potassium, magnesium and calcium have protective roles in the risk for high blood pressure. Remember that it is important to consult with your doctor before starting supplements.

Decrease saturated and trans fat consumption. In respect to hypertension this recommendation is geared toward your weight management.

  • ??

This year’s Annual Summer Senior Picnic at Midway will be held in July, not August as in years past. Watch for ticket sales in June.

Chautauqua County Office for the Aging Senior Nutrition Program provides nutritious noon meals at several Congregate Dining Sites throughout the county along with a Restaurant Dining out Program. Our dietitian, Cheryl Walhstrom, RD is available for nutrition counseling in your home at no cost to you. We also sponsor several exercise programs. Call the office for more details and information.

Call NY Connects at 753-4582.