By Lisa Arifer-Polcha, LSW, Care Manager
All of us experience stress in our lives. Significant stressors or small, we must deal with and manage stress regularly. Stress can be emotional, physical, or both and directly impacts our body’s blood pressure. Many family caregivers are under additional stress by caring for an aging parent or a loved one.
The month of May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month and is the perfect time to learn more about stress, blood pressure, and our health.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure means the force of blood pushing against the walls of blood vessels in your body is consistently too high. When you have your blood pressure taken, two numbers — “X over Y” — are provided. The first number is called systolic pressure. That refers to the force of the blood pumping out of the heart into the arteries. The second number is called diastolic pressure, which refers to blood when the heart is resting (in between beats). A blood pressure reading higher than 120/80 for an adult indicates an ‘elevated’ to ‘high’ blood pressure.
Why should I worry about high blood pressure?
High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. According to the American Medical Group Foundation’s Measure Up Pressure Down campaign, high blood pressure is present in 69% of first heart attacks and 77% of first strokes!
Unfortunately, there are many myths about high blood pressure. One such myth is that you will feel hot if you have high blood pressure or suffer from headaches. While either or both symptoms may occur, most people with high blood pressure have no noticeable symptoms, and that is why high blood pressure is deemed “The Silent Killer.”
As with any medical concern with long-term consequences but few short-term effects, it’s easy to postpone blood pressure screening and treatment. However, once long-term effects occur, they lead to chronic conditions that are difficult to manage. In addition to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, long-term uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart failure, vision loss, sexual dysfunction, kidney disease, and peripheral artery disease.
High blood pressure often occurs in conjunction with other conditions, and individuals with diabetes and chronic kidney disease have an increased risk of high blood pressure. Whether a condition caused high blood pressure or high blood pressure led to another illness, managing chronic conditions is highly challenging and can contribute to mental health concerns, such as depression and anxiety.
Is there Hope to Control High Blood Pressure?
The great news is that you can take steps to control your blood pressure better! A healthy diet and regular exercise are essential, but so is managing stress in your life. Caring for a loved one can be both highly rewarding and highly stressful. If you feel you need additional support in caring for a loved one, The Option Group is an excellent resource for your care coordination and caregiver support needs.
Reducing sodium is an easy, effective way to impact your blood pressure positively. The American Heart Association lists “The Salty 6” as bread/rolls, lunch meat and other cured meats, pizza, burritos/tacos, canned/boxed soups, and sandwiches. Most people eat at least one thing from this list, if not more, regularly. The American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of 2300 mg of sodium per day, with an ideal daily intake of 1500mg of sodium per day. Some of the “Salty 6” items meet or exceed that recommendation in a single serving!
Small, permanent changes make a significant impact on your health. Check the labels on prepared foods, cook with natural ingredients, and make sure you and your loved ones receive the quality care and support you deserve.
Further Education and Resources
Below are links to the American Heart Association and The Option Group. Take some time today to learn more about healthy choices and reduce your stress as a caregiver to maintain healthy blood pressure.
About The Option Group: Founded in 2010, The Option Group’s compassionate team of experienced Certified Life Care Managers serves families, their loved ones, medical professionals, and professional family advisors in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The firm understands the challenges of caring for an individual who needs assistance due to aging, dementia, disability, or serious illness. Their skilled providers possess over 100 years of combined experience navigating the healthcare maze and accessing hundreds of quality resources. The Option Group helps families spend quality time with their loved ones, providing clear choices that lead to better care. For more information, visit www.theoptiongroup.net or call 410-667-0266 (MD) or 717-287-9900 / 610-885-8899 (PA) / or 302-858-6449 (DE).