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Blood Pressure Quiz

Quiz by Nicole Nichols, Health Educator
Chronic high blood pressure, known as hypertension, is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard, and can harm your arteries. If left uncontrolled, it can lead to heart and kidney disease, heart attack, vision problems and stroke. Find out how much you know about blood pressure and how to manage it.

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1   What blood pressure reading is considered optimal?

Blood pressure, the force of blood against artery walls, is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm HG) and recorded as two numbers: systolic (pressure on the arterial walls as the heart contracts) over diastolic (pressure on the arterial walls as the heart relaxes between beats). Both numbers are important. Click here to see a chart that will help you recognize the differences between optimal and high (hypertensive) blood pressure for adults (measured in mm Hg).

1   How often should a healthy person get their blood pressure checked?

Healthy individuals should get their blood pressure tested by a medical professional every time they see the doctor, or at least once every two years. People with hypertension should do this more frequently, in accordance with their doctor's instructions. Read What is Blood Pressure? to learn more.

1   What is the most common symptom of high blood pressure?

You may have high blood pressure and not even know it. While 50 million Americans suffer from this affliction, 33 percent don't even know they have it, and 70 percent don't have it under control. Another 45 million are at high risk of developing it. High blood pressure is a condition without signs or symptoms, which is why it is often referred to as the "silent killer." The only way to know where you stand is to have your blood pressure checked by a qualified professional.

1   Who is most likely to develop high blood pressure?

Your risk of developing high blood pressure increases as you age. Men over 45 and women over 55 are more likely to have high blood pressure than their younger counterparts. Up to age 55, men are more prone to high blood pressure than women, but after menopause, a woman's risk increases. By age 75, high blood pressure is more prevalent among women than men.

Other uncontrollable risk factors for high blood pressure include race (African Americans and other minorities are at higher risk), and family history (your risk doubles if one or both of your parents had hypertension).

1   Which of the following dietary habits does NOT contribute to high blood pressure?

A diet high in sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and low in fiber, whole foods, and minerals (potassium, magnesium, calcium) can increase blood pressure. Eating a low-sodium, low-fat diet that is rich in whole foods, fiber and minerals like calcium can help. This eating plan, known as The DASH Diet, has been proven to lower blood pressure.

Moderate to heavy drinking (more than 1-2 drinks daily) can dramatically increase blood pressure and other health risks. Health experts recommend no more than one drink a day for women, and no more than two drinks per day for men.

1   True or False: Even if you are at a healthy weight, your risk for developing hypertension is greater if you do not exercise regularly.

Sedentary individuals have a higher risk for hypertension than individuals who are active. Regular exercise can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. However, if you are overweight, your risk of developing high blood pressure is two to six times higher.

1   True or False: If you have high blood pressure, the first step to lowering it is to take prescription medication.

You do not necessarily need to take medication to lower your blood pressure. Many lifestyle factors that you can control will help you lower your blood pressure without the use of medication. These include: dietary changes (less sodium and saturated fat, more minerals and fiber), regular exercise, weight loss, stress management (meditation, yoga, etc.), drinking less alcohol, and not smoking. Most health care providers suggest making lifestyle changes first, then reevaluating your need for medication later. But always be sure to follow the health recommendations of your doctor regarding prescription drugs and managing blood pressure. Check out SparkPeople's High Blood Pressure Risk Reduction Program to learn more.

1   When exercising with high blood pressure, what is the best advice to follow?

When you have high blood pressure, listening to your body is important. Always talk to your doctor first. Your top priority is to neutralize the threat of blood pressure before you push yourself toward more dramatic exercise goals. Frequency (number of exercise sessions per week) is more important than intensity. For more detail and safety precautions, read Exercising with High Blood Pressure before you get started.

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