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Prepare for World Health Day in Worcester

Thursday, April 04, 2013


Forgetting your wedding anniversary can land you in some hot water, but being in the dark about your blood pressure level can prove deadly.

Sunday, April 7th is World Health Day. Celebrated to mark the anniversary of the 1948 birth of the World Health Organization (WHO), this day focuses on spreading awareness of an international health issue. This year’s theme is all about high blood pressure.

According to the WHO, more than one in three adults worldwide has high blood pressure. The scarier news is that many of the people who are living with high blood pressure might not even know it, because high blood pressure doesn't always leave warning symptoms.

Don’t let the lack of symptoms fool you, though: the WHO believes that over nine million deaths in the world each year can be attributed to high blood pressure.

Heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness and heart failure are all caused by having high blood pressure. Are you willing to risk not knowing?

Get Tested

Men are generally at risk for high blood pressure when their waist measures larger than 40 inches. For women, waist measurements greater than 35 inches indicate a high risk. Having a smaller waist, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are in the clear; the only way to know for sure is to get tested.

If you don’t already get a yearly physical, now is a great time to start. Your physician will probably automatically test your blood pressure level along with your weight, and he or she can identify other health concerns you might not know about.

For those who have little to no health insurance, consider going to the Akwaaba Free Medical Clinic at the International Central Gospel Church. Along with blood pressure screenings, they provide check-ups, HIV testing and diabetes screenings. This free clinic also welcomes undocumented noncitizens. The hours are Thursday evenings from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and for more information, visit http://www.worcesterfreeclinics.org/akwaaba.html.

Another free health clinic is the Greenwood Street Free Medical Program, held on Wednesday nights from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. This clinic helps eligible patients enroll in low-cost health insurance plans as well. For more information, visit http://www.worcesterfreeclinics.org/greenwood-street.html.

Preventing and Reducing High Blood Pressure

Perhaps you already have high blood pressure or are worried about getting it? Here are some lifestyle tips for how to reduce your risk without medication—and improve your life in the process.

First and foremost, maintaining a healthy weight is critical to lowering or preventing high blood pressure. This generally involves eating right: plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains! If you need to start of gradually, try substituting that nightly bowl of ice cream for an apple with honey or a fruity yogurt.

Reducing stress levels is another way to keep your blood pressure in check. Keep this in mind now that Tax Day is fast approaching! Twenty minutes of heart-pumping exercise and a few minutes of daily deep breathing are both easy ways of slashing stress levels.

Finally, there are three things that anyone with a high blood pressure risk should avoid: excessive alcohol, salt, and tobacco.

Alcohol is okay in small doses, such as one glass of wine with dinner. Too much alcohol, however, can easily cause blood pressure levels to spike. People worried about high blood pressure should avoid binge drinking especially.

Salt is in almost all processed foods, so it is difficult to avoid. To lessen your intake of sodium, resist the urge to sprinkle extra salt on your meals and read nutrition labels carefully. Canned soups in particular usually contain high levels of salt.

Tobacco is the final substance to steer clear of when looking to slash high blood pressure levels.

The Importance of Exercise

Regular exercise is a key element of maintain a critical weight and taking control of your blood pressure. Aiming for 20-30 minutes of good exercise three to five times a week is ideal.

Often the hardest part of exercising is scrounging up the motivation. If the thought of possibly suffering a heart attack a few years down the road isn’t enough to get you moving, try scheduling to work out with a friend. It’s easy to back out of going to the gym alone, but you are much less likely to cancel when you have a friend relying on you.

Even taking on the treadmills with a buddy can become boring, though. To make exercise more enjoyable, try taking a long walk in Worcester’s Green Hill Park, or plan to go hiking at Purgatory Chasm one Sunday with the family.

Another exercise option is the weekly Central Mass Striders 5k. Every Saturday morning at 9 a.m., there is 5-kilometer (3.1 mile) race held at Worcester State University. Runners and walkers of all speeds and all ages are encouraged to attend. For CMS members, the cost is $3, and for non-members, the cost is only $5. For more information, visit their website at http://www.cmsrun.org/index.php/club-races/cms-52-week-5k.

In Conclusion

High blood pressure can sneak up without warning, and it has the potential to be deadly. Knowing your blood pressure level can allow you to get a head start on reducing your risk, and the small changes that can cut your threat of high blood pressure—regular exercise, healthy eating, less salt and tobacco—will also improve your overall health.


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