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High blood pressure? Small changes can help

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ATLANTA -

According to the American Heart Association, one in three Georgians who has high blood pressure doesn't even realize it.  If you're among them, getting your blood pressure back in the healthy range may be easier than you think.

The first step is to simply get your blood pressure checked.  You don't even have to go to the doctor's office to do it!  In fact, most drugstores and fire stations offer free checks.  

"Anything greater than 120 in your top number, anything greater than 80 in your bottom number is indicative of pre-hypertension or hypertension, which is just a fancy word for high blood pressure," said registered nurse Becky Lake.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure ratchets up the pressure on the walls of our blood vessels.  Over time, that pressure damages the kidneys and heart, and that can open the door to everything from heart disease to blindness to kidney failure.

If your numbers are high, you can make a few simple changes that could help get your blood pressure back under control.  For many people, the challenge is the way we eat.  One easy fix is to read your food labels.  A lot of blood pressure is salt-sensitive, and processed, pre-made, and canned foods are usually packed with sodium.  If you know what's in your food, you can make better choices, like swapping canned veggies for frozen ones.

Becoming more active can help, too.  In fact, just 30 minutes a day of moderate activity can drop your blood pressure 5 to 15 points-- which may be enough to keep you off of medication. Lake says you should find something you enjoy, like playing with your kids or grand kids.

Stress can also raise your blood pressure, so Lake says you should find a way to let it go.  She says you should do more of what you love, and a little less of what causes you stress and anxiety.

There's no quick fix for high blood pressure, but if you consistently make small, healthier choices, you can make a difference.  The Dash Diet may be able to help.  It's a free diet that has been shown to lower systolic blood pressure-- that important top number-- by 8 to 15 points.  

To learn more about the Dash Diet Eating Plan, click here.

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