Hypertension/Heart & Vascular Disease
Hypertension/Heart & Vascular Disease
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a condition that can lead to serious health problems. According to an American Heart Association census, more than 50 percent of Americans ages 55 to 64 and about 20 percent of Americans ages 25 to 34 have hypertension. This rate is even higher in the Chinese community. While certain health conditions or medications can contribute to high blood pressure, the cause is unknown for most adults.
Left untreated, hypertension can damage your blood vessels and heart. Over time, this can lead to serious health conditions, including:
- Heart attack or other heart and vascular conditions
- Peripheral artery disease
- Kidney damage
- Fluid in the lungs
- Vision loss
- Erectile dysfunction
- Memory loss
Although many people associate hypertension with old age, you can develop it at any age. Most people with hypertension experience no obvious symptoms, so it’s important to get regular blood pressure screenings.
Blood Pressure Screening
Since most people don’t experience symptoms related to hypertension, blood pressure screening may be the only way to know if you have it. The best approach to protecting your health is to get regular screenings to keep track of your blood pressure. Talk to your doctor if your blood pressure rises above a healthy range.
El Camino Hospital’s Health Library & Resource Center on the Mountain View campus offers free, walk-in blood pressure screening every Friday morning. Call 650-940-7210 for more information. Visit our hypertension resources for tips on eating a low-sodium diet - at home and while eating out.
Tips for Measuring Blood Pressure
The following tips will help ensure you get the most accurate blood pressure readings:
- Don’t eat, exercise, smoke or drink caffeinated beverages for at least 30 minutes prior to screening. Rest for five minutes before measuring your blood pressure.
- Sit on a chair with both feet on the ground.
- Keep your arms at heart level.
- Perform the measurement at least twice.
Blood pressure readings use two levels of numbers. The first number (systolic) measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart pumps. The second number (diastolic) measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats.
What the numbers mean to you:
Normal blood pressure
120/80 or below
Hypertension stage 1
Hypertension stage 2
160/100 or higher
If your blood pressure is above the normal range, talk to your doctor. High blood pressure increases your risk of developing coronary artery disease. El Camino Hospital offers education and resources to help you lower your risk, as well as a network of Chinese-speaking doctors to help diagnose, prevent and manage the condition.
Preventing and Controlling Hypertension
Even a slight reduction in blood pressure can drastically lower your risk of heart attack, stroke and other conditions associated with hypertension. In fact, a reduction of 5 to 6 mm Hg diastolic pressure can lessen your risk of stroke by 35 to 40 percent. Your doctor can offer advice and guidance to help you control your blood pressure.
Although hypertension can’t be cured, it can be controlled. Preventing and controlling hypertension starts with a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking are two ways to significantly lower your blood pressure and improve your overall health. Other steps include lowering your salt and alcohol intake, eating more vegetables and nuts, and exercising regularly.
Is a high-sodium diet contributing to your hypertension? You may not realize it, but some of your favorite foods may be loaded with salt. Excess levels of sodium may cause your heart and blood vessels to work harder, increasing your risk of hypertension, stroke and heart failure.
These popular Chinese dishes are high in sodium and could increase your risk of hypertension:
- Preserved egg
- Chinese sausage
- Chinese ham
- Pork floss
- Dry salted fish
- Bean curd
- Instant noodles
- Preserved fruit
- Salted duck egg
- Chinese roast pork
Cooking your own meals, substituting other spices for salt, and avoiding processed foods and foods that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) can help you lower your sodium intake. Your doctor can help you determine the amount of sodium that’s right for you. We offer tasty, low-sodium recipes for some popular Chinese dishes. Our hypertension resources can provide you with the tips you need to start a low-sodium diet.
Regular exercise is important for controlling your blood pressure. It strengthens your heart and allows blood to flow more freely. For maximum benefit, you should do 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise at least three times a week.
Examples of good cardiovascular exercise include:
- Aerobics classes
- Brisk walking
In addition to healthy eating and regular exercise, certain massage techniques may help control your blood pressure. Try these easy-to-perform acupressure techniques that you can do at home:
- Knead the Fengchi point. Hold your forehead with one hand and use the first finger and the index finger of your other hand to apply pressure on your Fengchi point (toward the base of your skull, about an inch behind your earlobe). Knead for 30 seconds until you feel a sense of “sore numbness.”
- Rub the Yongquan point. Sit in a chair. Put your right foot on your left knee and use your right hand to hold your toes. Use your left hand to rub the Yongquan point (in the center, immediately below the ball of your foot) until your arch feels warm. Repeat on the other side.
- Rub the Quchi point. Use your right thumb to press the Quchi point on your left arm. Rub clockwise until you feel “sore numbness.” Alternate between your left and right arms.
Sometimes lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough to improve your blood pressure. For individuals who need more support, medication is an option. If you take medication for hypertension, it’s important to take it continuously and as prescribed by your doctor. Taking your medication irregularly or stopping abruptly can cause your blood pressure to fluctuate and may even worsen your condition. If you have concerns or you’re not feeling well after starting a medication, discuss it with your doctor.
Before beginning hypertension medicine, be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, herbs and supplements you’re taking. Certain combinations can cause harmful side effects. While using medication for hypertension, always check with your doctor before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter drugs, supplements and herbal medicines.
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Know Your Blood Pressure
See more community resources about hypertension through the El Camino Healthcare District’s hypertension campaign.
Health Resource Guide for Chinese Seniors in Santa Clara County
Click here to download the PDF guide.
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