High blood pressure (otherwise known as hypertension) is not just for your grandparents anymore. A whopping one in three Americans now have it. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), hypertension is now common in ages ranging from toddlers to college students to baby boomers. How frightening is that?
Hypertension is the condition of blood pumping too forcefully through the body's blood vessels. The great push of blood stretches veins and arteries out of shape. The vessels then tear and develop scar tissue as they try to heal. Primarily in the arteries, these scars act like burrs on which cholesterol gets caught and builds up. The more closed off the arteries become, the more likely the chance for a heart attack or stroke.
Your doctor will always take your blood pressure upon a visit, but this can sometimes create an elevated reading (known as "white coat syndrome") from nerves and anxiety; still, it is always better to have it checked regularly. You can test at home by purchasing home blood pressure equipment at pharmacies or in the health departments of larger retail stores. Pharmacies will sometimes have a machine on site where you can sit and test your blood pressure. If you find one, bring the whole family along for testing. Think of it as a group field trip...
In our standard American diet (or SAD, as it's often referred to), we eat far too much sugar, fat, caffeine and processed food. We are also overworked and under stress on all fronts. The fact that hypertension is appearing in children and teens now should scare us all straight about what our diets and lifestyle are doing to ourselves and our families.
Change can be simple, but not necessarily easy. Adding in fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to you and your family's diet, and reducing/eliminating the consumption soda and junk food can make a world of difference. So can getting up and outside instead of sitting in front of the t.v. to watch another show or play another video game-what do these things really add to the value of our lives anyway?
Think big, start small, and change can happen.