Blood pressure important to overall individual health

Blood pressure important to overall individual health May is National Blood Pressure Awareness month. It is a good time for everyone to take stock of their eating plans as well their blood pressure, said Carol Pitts, Extension nutrition, health and food safety specialist at South Dakota State University.

"Blood pressure should be treated and is an important component of overall health care," said Pitts.

She said the baseline normal blood pressure is 140 over 80, but this may vary according to age and health status.

"If you haven't had your blood pressure checked, especially if there's a family history of high blood pressure or heart disease, it is important to have your blood pressure checked," she said.

Blood pressure control can be helped through diet. For many, weight control and exercise is very important in treating their blood pressure. Pitts recommends discussing any weight control program used to maintain blood pressure with a health care provider.

Increasing certain nutrients within the diet may also be helpful in decreasing blood pressure. "Potassium, magnesium and calcium can be important in adequate amounts in the diet. Sodium control can be important, too," said Pitts.

Potassium is found abundantly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. Magnesium is found in whole grains, such as wheat and brown rice, nuts, beans and dark green leafy vegetables. Calcium is found in dairy products.

Pitts recommends buying low-fat or non-fat types of milks, cheeses and other dairy products if one is concerned about weight control.

The specialist said the best way to eliminate salt in the diet is not to use the salt shaker at the table.

"Don't add extra salt to foods. Usually salt is found in processed foods and then people add salt at the table," said Pitts.

For more information on blood pressure control, contact your local health care provider, your area Extension office, or Carol Pitts, (605) 688-6233.

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