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Men's Health

As Men Age, the Pressure Is On

By the time a man reaches the age of 60 or 70, his chances of developing hypertension, or high blood pressure, are extremely high, according to Donald DiPette, a Michigan State University physician.

"By the sixth or seventh decade of a man's life," DiPette says, "approximately 50 or 60 percent will ultimately develop hypertension."

That's important to note, he says, because hypertension is one of the leading causes of heart disease, which can include heart attack, stroke and congestive heart failure.

"The good news is that safe and effective treatment is available. That includes drug treatment, as well as non-pharmacologic, including stopping smoking, watching salt intake, and weight reduction," said DiPette, who chairs MSU's Department of Medicine.

Tips for Keeping Your Blood Pressure Low

High blood pressure has been defined as blood pressure that is 140/90 or higher, while normal blood pressure typically is 120/80.

A recent campaign sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the American Heart Association and Rainbow Foods highlighted several steps you can take to keep your blood pressure low:

  • Eat less saturated fat. Switching to a leaner, low-fat, low-cholesterol diet will help prevent clogged arteries and heart attacks, and can reduce your blood pressure.

  • If you smoke, stop. Smoking can damage the heart and arteries, and greatly increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

  • Stay trim. Blood pressure tends to rise with extra weight.

  • Eat more produce. Most fruits and vegetables contain potassium, a mineral that seems to lower blood pressure. Try to eat the recommended daily allowance of five to nine servings.

  • Cut back on salt. About 40 percent of people with high blood pressure are salt-sensitive. Packaged meals, canned foods and fast foods often are greater sources of salt than the salt shaker.

  • Drink sensibly. One alcoholic drink a day may lower your blood pressure, but drinking much more will raise it. Alcoholism can be a cause of hypertension.

  • Seek treatment for depression or chronic anxiety. They can increase a person's risk of developing high blood pressure.

What To Ask

The campaign also devised a "top 10" list of questions you should ask your doctor about your blood pressure. They are:

1. What is my blood pressure reading in numbers?

2. What is my goal blood pressure?

3. Is my blood pressure under adequate control?

4. What would be a healthy weight for me?

5. Is there a recommended healthy eating plan I should follow to help lower my blood pressure?

6. Is it safe for me to do regular physical activity?

7. What is the name of my blood pressure medication (if one has been prescribed)? Is that the brand name or the generic name?

8. What are the possible side effects of my medication? (Be sure your doctor knows about any allergies you have and any other medications you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbal or dietary supplements.)

9. Are there any foods, beverages or dietary supplements I should avoid when taking this medicine?

10. What should I do if I forget to take my blood pressure medication at the recommended time?

© 2001 Health Resources Publishing