Applying the Pressure

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Have you ever noticed that each month is associated with something to be celebrated, or a topic intended to increase our interest to learn more about a subject? This month, we celebrate National Blood Pressure Education, a month-long health observance that tackles the underlying, as well as prevalent issues, concerning high blood pressure. Not only is this an opportunity to understand more about the impact of this health condition, it creates a dialogue to talk more openly about lifestyle changes, preventative measures, and ways to relate to others who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when your arterioles tighten and makes your heart work harder to get the blood to flow, causing the pressure on the inside to increase. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that about 1 in 3 U.S. adults, or about 75 million people, have high blood pressure, with only half of those people having their blood pressure under control. It has also been called a silent killer because sometimes a person can be unaware that they have it, due to the fact that they’ve experienced little to no symptoms.

Hypertension not only affects adults, but adolescents as well. Studies show that about 4 percent of youth (12 to 19 years) have hypertension, and another 10 percent have elevated blood pressure. According to the Texas Heart Institute, hypertension is projected to increase about 8 percent between 2013 and 2030. There are certain risk factors however, such as family history, being overweight or obese, race, and age that can attribute to this. These findings are alarming, but there are ways to prevent high blood pressure from developing, and ways to decrease hypertension if already diagnosed.

By simply adopting healthier habits in our daily routines, the risk of development reduces significantly. These changes include incorporating a healthier diet, implementing physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, even limiting substances that we put into the body, such as alcohol. Learning the material shared in the Adult Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) series can be beneficial to individuals with hypertension who need a push or ideas to assist them in their decision making and healthy lifestyle adjustments.

EFNEP is a nutrition education program that focuses on helping families to “Eat Smart, and Move More”, helping participants improve their health now, and for the future. The program also teaches how manage food resources, and address food insecurity. Classes are free, and welcome to all who meet the guidelines.

In EFNEP, participants are always learning new ways to become more physically active. Moreover, adult learners are educated on the importance of building a healthy plate, which promotes increased fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as eating foods that are low in fat, sugars, and sodium, all of which impact weight gain or loss. Additionally, EFNEP teaches participants simple, affordable, and – more importantly – healthy recipes that they can prepare at home.

For more information, contact Ashley McRae, Extension Adult Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program Assistant, at 910-671-3276, by email at Ashley_McRae@ncsu.edu, or visit our website.

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