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May is Blood Pressure Education Month

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high blood pressure and the heartAs a leading risk factor for death in both men and women, high blood pressure is worthy of a designated awareness month to encourage Americans to check, change, and control it. In addition to its year-round efforts related to blood pressure, each May the American Heart Association recognizes and promotes National High Blood Pressure Education month.

Whether you're a new or veteran Salty Scoop reader, you probably know that eating too much sodium increases your risk for high blood pressure (also known as hypertension). You may also know that about 33 percent of American adults have high blood pressure, and that number rises to about 40 percent among African-Americans.

Why does it matter?

High blood pressure damages your arteries, heart, and other vital organs. It's sometimes called "the silent killer" because it has no symptoms, and many people who are affected feel fine. About 69 percent of people who have a first heart attack and 77 percent of people who have a first stroke have high blood pressure.

Sadly, only about half of the 78 million Americans who have high blood pressure have it under control. The good news is that many factors affecting blood pressure are within your control. AHA has tips for controlling your blood pressure, and I blogged previously about how you can lower your blood pressure by changing the way you eat.

What if you don't have high blood pressure?

Even if your blood pressure if normal, you can still benefit from watching the sodium you eat. Blood pressure rises with age, so even if you have normal blood pressure now, controlling the sodium you eat can help prevent high blood pressure later in life. This is important because 90 percent of Americans adults are expected to develop high blood pressure in their lifetimes.

What steps have you taken to control your blood pressure? Tell us in the comments!