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Andrew Waters, MD, FACC, RPVI, is a Board-certified cardiologist who has a special interest in matters of the heart. He recently took time to answer some common questions to help patients recognize and deal with hypertension.

Q: How widespread is hypertension (high blood pressure) across the country?

A: According to data from a recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the prevalence of age adjusted hypertension was approximately 45 percent among adults, but it increased with age. In patient’s 40 to 59, the prevalence was 54 percent and in patients 60 and over, the prevalence was 74 percent.

Q: Why is it dangerous to have high blood pressure?

A: Untreated hypertension can lead to higher rates of coronary disease, stroke, heart failure, chronic kidney disease and vision loss. Unfortunately, hypertension often has no symptoms, and without routine monitoring, patients can be hypertensive for many years without knowing it.

Q: What are the major factors that can cause high blood pressure?

A: Factors that increase the risk of hypertension include non-modifiable risk factors such as age, but also factors such as sedentary lifestyle, obesity and in some cases, it can be associated with sodium intake in the diet — since some patients with hypertension are particularly salt sensitive.

Q: What are the biggest lifestyle changes that can help lower blood pressure?

A: Dietary salt restriction has been found to be helpful, especially for patients with coexisting diabetes and chronic kidney disease. In patients who are obese, weight loss has been shown to help with hypertension. Different forms of exercise (aerobic, dynamic resistance and isometric resistance) have all been shown to help lower blood pressure.

Q: What are some good foods for lowering blood pressure?

A: Generally, limiting sodium intake and foods rich in potassium will help with the treatment of hypertension. The best-known diet to help with hypertension is the DASH diet, which tends to be high in fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish and nuts and low in sweets, sugar sweetened beverages and red meats.

When it comes to your heart health, all it takes is a few small changes to have an immediate and positive impact. Here at AdventHealth, we offer HEARTaware, a free, online heart disease risk assessment designed to help you identify your risk factors for developing heart disease.

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