Unmasking the silent killer

5/4/2017  By HealthNews

May 4, 2017 

Daily sodium recommended for those with high blood pressure: 1,500 mg.
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“The problem with high blood pressure is that you don’t feel it. People have it, but they don’t know it, so they don’t get treatment for it,” says Anita Schiltz, ARNP at KVH Internal Medicine. The real issues, Schiltz says, are the conditions high blood pressure can cause down the road.

Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure can lead to stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and can even affect your memory. “Good brain function needs good blood flow,” explains Schiltz. “The better the flow to your head, the better you’re going to think,” and increased blood pressure interferes with the process.

While hypertension has been given its ominous “silent killer” nickname for good reason, Schiltz is quick to offer a positive perspective: “The wonderful thing about blood pressure is you can really do a lot to reduce it with good lifestyle choices.”

"It’s not any one thing. It’s the whole picture."
-Anita Schiltz, ARNP on the causes of hypertension

During a recent lecture at Ellensburg’s Adult Activity Center, Schiltz asked the senior audience to name any risk factors that contribute to high blood pressure. The engaged group came up with a comprehensive list including stress, obesity, smoking, diet, lack of exercise, salt, alcohol, gender, ethnicity, and genetics.

“There are so many different lifestyle factors when considering high blood pressure,” states Schiltz. “It’s not any one thing. It’s the whole picture. What else is going on?”

When it comes to diet, it doesn’t have to be complicated, says Schiltz. Get away from fast food and processed food, and get into fresh foods. Read nutrition labels, but focus on percentages. “There’s a lot of false advertising out there,” she says. “Look at the label. A low sodium product is 5% or less of the daily value, while high sodium is 20% or greater.”

Schiltz gave an overview of 2 recommended dietary options for people concerned with high blood pressure: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH diet), and the Mediterranean Diet. The two are similar, with small differences including DASH’s more friendly approach to dairy and the Mediterranean’s focus on olive oil for heart healthy fat. Despite their names, both are not intended as short-term ‘diets’ but as healthy eating lifestyles.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, high blood pressure affects one in three Americans, including one in four men and one in five women age 35 – 44. Like Schiltz, the CDC suggests adopting lifestyle choices including eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough exercise, not smoking, and limiting alcohol use.

Schiltz underlines her positive approach with this advice: You don’t have to wait for a heart attack to reveal hypertension. Start with a conversation. Talk to your doctor about your risks, and stop a silent killer in its tracks.


Related CDC programs:

Million Hearts national prevention initiative

Sodium Reduction in Communities

WISEWOMAN screening assistance

Managed by Kittitas Valley Healthcare, HealthNews does not provide medical advice. For medical advice, please see your healthcare provider.