NHLBI Urges Americans To Take Control Of Their Hypertension

April 26, 1999

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month and this year's theme highlights the threat of uncontrolled hypertension. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) urges Americans: "If Your Blood Pressure Is Not Lower Than 140/90, Ask Your Doctor Why."

The NHLBI is part of the National Institutes of Health. NHLBI sponsors the hypertension month effort with the National High Blood Pressure Education Program (NHBPEP), which it coordinates.

High blood pressure affects about 50 million--or one in four--American adults. Of those with hypertension, about 68 percent are aware of their condition--but only 27 percent have it under control. The reasons for this include not taking drugs as prescribed and/or not taking a medication that sufficiently lowers blood pressure.

Hypertension can lead to stroke, heart failure, or kidney damage. To help prevent that, blood pressure must be lowered to less than 140/90 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). Normal blood pressure is less than 130/less than 85 mm Hg.

"We advise Americans to talk about their blood pressure with their doctor," said NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Lenfant. "They should have their blood pressure checked and, if it's high, ask about adjusting their medication and whether they've made the necessary lifestyle changes to bring it to below 140/90."

The lifestyle changes to control high blood pressure are: lose weight, if overweight; become physically active; choose foods lower in salt and sodium; and limit alcohol intake.

To help spread the word about the dangers of uncontrolled hypertension--and what can be done about it--the NHLBI and the NHBPEP have set up a special web site, which can be accessed through the NHLBI home page at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov.

They also are offering a variety of materials to help Americans learn more about hypertension. The materials are:
Facts About the DASH diet. DASH is an eating plan rich in fruits, vegetables, and lowfat dairy foods and lower in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. It has been shown to reduce high blood pressure. The fact sheet gives an overview of the plan and a week of DASH menus.

Heart healthy recipes from the NHLBI Stay Young At Heart Program, as well as special Latino and African American recipe books.

Controlling High Blood Pressure: A Woman's Guide, which tells how to lower high blood pressure. A guide in Spanish also is available.

Facts About How to Prevent High Blood Pressure. This fact sheet gives an overview of hypertension.

Special booklets series for African Americans and Latinos on how to prevent and control cardiovascular risk factors. The Latino series is in Spanish and English.

I.Q. Quizzes about the Healthy Heart and Physical Activity.
These materials can be ordered from the NHLBI Information Center, P.O. Box 30105, Bethesda, MD 20824-0105. Single copies of starred items listed above are free; others have a small charge. All are available free at the special hypertension control web site.

Also, check out NHLBI's new Achieve Your Healthy Weight web site. It can be accessed through the NHLBI home page or the high blood pressure education month site. The site offers practical information on weight loss, including heart healthy recipes, and tips on how to make behavior changes, choose a weight loss program, and shop for low calorie foods.

Finally, for recorded messages about high blood pressure prevention and control, call toll-free 1-800-575-WELL.

"May is an opportunity to make a new start on a healthier heart," said Dr. Edward Roccella, NHBPEP Coordinator. "The same lifestyle steps that control high blood pressure also may prevent it. So everyone in the family can take action together."
Roccella is available for comment about the National High Blood Pressure Education Month effort. To arrange an interview, contact the NHLBI Communications Office at 301-496-4236.

NIH/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

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