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Articles » Heart Disease & Women Preventing & Controlling High Blood Pressure: NHLBI

Heart Disease & Women Preventing & Controlling High Blood Pressure: NHLBI

Article title: Heart Disease & Women Preventing & Controlling High Blood Pressure: NHLBI

Conditions: High Blood Pressure

Source: NHLBI

Facts About Heart Disease and Women:
Heart Disease Risk Factors
Risk factors are habits or traits that make a person more likely
to develop a disease.  Many of those for heart disease can be
controlled.  These include:
>    Cigarette smoking
>    High blood pressure
>    High blood cholesterol
>    Overweight
>    Physical inactivity
>    Diabetes
The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk. So take
action--take control!
 High Blood Pressure Information for the General Public                Home Page
CORONARY HEART DISEASE is a woman's concern. Every woman's
concern. One in ten American women 45 to 64 years of age has some
form of heart disease, and this increases to one in five women
over 65. Another 1.6 million women have had a stroke.Both heart
disease and stroke are known as cardiovascular diseases, which
are serious disorders of the heart and blood vessel system. 
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, greatly
increases your chances of developing cardiovascular  diseases,
and it is the most important risk factor for stroke. Even
slightly high levels double your risk. More than half of American
women will develop high blood pressure at some point in their
High blood pressure is sometimes called the "silent killer"
because most people who have it do not feel sick. That makes it
particularly important to have your blood pressure checked each
time you see your doctor or other health professional. If your
blood pressure is found to be at 140/90 or above, then you have
high blood pressure. You will likely need to have your pressure
measured on at least two more occasions to be sure the result is
If you have high blood pressure, you can control it with proper
treatment. If you don't have high blood pressure now, you can
take steps to prevent it from developing. You can help to control
and prevent high blood pressure by taking the following steps: 
Limit Your Alcohol Use. If you drink alcohol, have no more than
one drink per day. That means no more than 12 ounces of beer, 5
ounces of wine, or 1 1/2 ounces of hard liquor. 
Use Less Salt. Try seasoning foods instead with herbs, spices,
and lemon juice. Keep in mind that sodium, an ingredient in salt,
is "hidden" in many packaged and processed foods. Check product
labels for the amount of sodium in each serving. Many experts
advise a total daily salt intake of no more than 6 grams, which
equals about 2,400 milligrams of sodium--this includes whatever
is added during cooking and at the table. If you would like to
try a salt substitute, talk with your doctor first, because they
are not safe for everyone.     
Be Physically Active. Even low- to modeate-intensity activity, if
done regularly, can help control and prevent high blood pressure.
Examples of such exercise are walking for pleasure, gardening,
yardwork, moderate-to-heavy housework, dancing, and home
exercise. Try to do one or more of these activities every day. 
Lose Weight If You Are Overweight. Taking off excess pounds will
help to control and prevent high blood pressure, and will lower
your chances of developing cardiovascular disease in several
other ways. Weight loss will help to prevent and control
diabetes, and it can also lower blood cholesterol levels.
Finally, since being overweight  raises the chances of developing
heart disease, losing weight can lower your risk. 
The following are some suggestions for making weight loss an
easier, safer, and more successful process:    
Eat For Health. Choose a wide variety of low-calorie, nutritious
foods in moderate amounts. Make sure that these foods are low in
fat, especially saturated fat. Remember, fat is the greatest
source of calories. If you have a lot of weight to lose, ask your
doctor or a nutritionist to help you develop a sensible,
well-balanced plan for gradual weight loss. 
Keep Milk On the Menu. Don't cut out dairy products in trying to
reduce calories and fat. Dairy products are rich in calcium, a
nutrient that is particularly important for women. Instead,
choose skim or low fat, lower calorie dairy products.
Get Beyond Dieting. To keep the pounds off, change your basic
eating habits rather than simply "go on a diet." Learn to
recognize social and emotional situations that trigger overeating
and find ways to cope with them that work for you.
Avoid Fads and Diet Pills. Most fad diets provide poor nutrition
and cause a number of side effects. Although fad diets can give
quick and dramatic results, the weight returns quickly once you
stop dieting. Also avoid diet pills. Most have troublesome side
effects and none of them work for long-term weight loss.
Get a Move On. While physical activity alone won't take off many
pounds, exercise can help burn calories, tone muscles, and
control appetite. It will also help you keep off the weight you
Ask For Support. Tell your family and friends about your weight
loss plans and let them know how they can help you. You might
also want to join a self-help group devoted to weight control.
These groups provide support and practical suggestions on
nutrition and long-term weight control. 
Another Consideration
It is also important to know that if you take birth control
pills, your blood pressure is apt to increase slightly. The risk
appears to increase with age and with length of use. If you are
taking oral contraceptives, you should get your blood pressure
checked regularly. If hypertension develops, you should stop
using the pill. 
Taking Medication 
If you have high blood pressure and it stays high even after you
make the changes described above, your doctor will probably also
prescribe medicine. The amount you take may be gradually reduced,
especially if you are successful with the changes you make in
your lifestyle. If you feel any uncomfortable side effects from
the drug, ask your doctor about lowering the amount you take, or
possibly switching to another type of medicine.  
If you want to know more about keeping your heart healthy, the
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has available
free fact sheets on the following subjects: preventing high blood
cholesterol, quitting smoking, the heart benefits of physical
activity, and heart disease risk factors for women. 
NHLBI Information Center
P.O. Box 30105
Bethesda, MD 20824-0105
(301) 592-8573 
Public Health Service
National Institutes of Health
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
NIH Publication No. 95-3655
July 1994
Blood Pressure Categories in Adults 
(18 Years and Older)
Blood pressure is shown as two numbers--the systolic pressure as
the heart is beating and the diastolic pressure between
Blood Pressure Level in mmHg 
Category       Systolic  Diastolic
Normal         <130        <85
High Normal    130-139     85-89
Stage 1     140-159     90-99
Stage 2     160-179     100-109
Stage 3     180-209     110-119
Stage 4     =>210       =>120
From:  The Fifth Report of the Joint National Committee on
Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure,
NIH, NHLBI, 1993.
Move It and Lose It
Activities               Calories Burned per Hour*
Sitting Quietly                      80
Standing Quietly                     95
Light Activity                       240
Office work
Cleaning house
Playing golf
Moderate Activity                    370
Walking briskly (3.5 mph)
Bicycling (5.5 mph)
Strenuous Activity                   580
Jogging (9 min. per mile)
Very Strenuous Activity              740
Running (7 min. per mile)
*For a healthy 140-pound woman. If you weigh more than 140
pounds, you will probably burn more calories per hour. If you
weigh less, you will probably burn fewer calories per hour.
Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, U.S. Department of
Agriculture/U.S.Department of Health and Human Services, 1990.
Keep Track of Your Blood Pressure
Normal: Under 140/90 mm Hg
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Updated August 1996

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