High Blood Pressure: Facts to know and myths to forget

— May 17 is World Hypertension Day, an opportunity to promote public awareness of hypertension, or high blood pressure, and to encourage citizens to learn how to control this silent killer. As part of the CHECK IT, B’MORE initiative, there will be many opportunities for people to get their blood pressure checked and take the first step to improving their heart health, including:

•With the American Heart Association, the University of Maryland Medical Center will offer screening in a mobile van from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at City Hall, 100 N. Holliday Street in Baltimore.

•At the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus Community Health Education Center (CHEC), 821 N. Eutaw Street, Ste. 106, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

•For more locations, see CHECK IT B-MORE, at http://umm.gd/2pie0a1

This is an issue of particular importance for the African-American community:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when compared with white individuals, African-Americans ages 18-49 are twice as likely to die from heart disease, and African-Americans ages 35-64 are 50 percent more likely to have high blood pressure.

Your heart pumps blood to provide energy and oxygen, and, with every beat, pushes against the sides of blood vessels. The strength of that pushing is called blood pressure. Blood pressure measurements help gauge the health of your heart and blood vessels. If your blood pressure is too high, you may be at risk for stroke, kidney disease, heart attack or other problems.

Individuals can make changes to lower their blood pressure by taking steps such as eating a well-balanced, low-salt diet; exercising regularly; maintaining a healthy weight; quitting smoking; limiting alcohol and taking medications properly.

See how you score on these facts and myths about high blood pressure— doctors call it hypertension.

Hypertension is common in the USA: Fact or Myth?

•Answer: Fact— About 75-80 million adults (1 in 3) in the US have high blood pressure, unfortunately, one out of every five Americans with hypertension is NOT aware they have it.

In some people, salt or sodium can increase blood pressure. You can keep your dietary sodium low by not using regular salt and simply substituting kosher or sea salt when cooking. Fact or Myth?

•Answer: Myth— About 75 percent of the dietary sodium we consume is hidden in processed foods like tomato sauce, soups, condiments and canned foods. It is important to read labels and watch for foods with large amounts of sodium. So-called salt alternatives like kosher or sea salt are the same as table salt— 40 percent sodium-and count the same as regular table salt toward your daily sodium or salt consumption.

Most people know when their blood pressure is high because they have headaches, sweating and feel “hyper.” Fact or Myth?

•Answer: Myth— Hypertension is called “the silent killer” because so many people who have high blood pressure have no symptoms when their pressure is high. You may not be aware that your high blood pressure could be damaging your heart, kidneys, brain or other organs. Know your numbers and let your doctor determine when you need to be treated.