Monday, November 2, 2020

As we near the end of 2020, researchers across the country and around the world are not only working to find a vaccine for COVID-19, they are also learning more about who is at an increased risk of becoming seriously ill if exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, data suggests that adults of any age who are overweight or obese, and/or have certain chronic health conditions like hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), among others, may be at a heightened risk for severe illness if they develop COVID-19.

People with many of these chronic medical conditions are also at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they develop seasonal influenza (flu) — something that can be prevented by getting an annual flu vaccine.

Blood pressure measures the pressure of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries, which carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body. Although your blood pressure varies throughout the day, consistently elevated blood pressure could signal a more significant problem called hypertension (high blood pressure) that can increase your risk of developing other serious medical conditions like heart disease and stroke.

The good news: there are simple things you can do to keep your blood pressure in a normal range without relying on medication.

  • Monitor your blood pressure. Since high blood pressure often does not have any symptoms, it is important to regularly monitor your blood pressure by checking it at home and at your doctor’s office. Consult with your healthcare provider if you think you have high blood pressure or if you are unable to control your blood pressure.
  • Manage your weight. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight — even a small amount — can help reduce your blood pressure. Being overweight can also lead to disruptions in your breathing while asleep, which can raise your blood pressure.
  • Set an exercise routine and stick with it. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week — that’s about 20 to 30 minutes each day. Children and teens should participate in at least one hour of physical activity daily. Regular exercise can reduce your blood pressure.
  • Choose the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Healthy eating habits can help prevent obesity and medical conditions like high blood pressure. When making food choices, fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables; choose whole grains; opt for low-fat or fat-free dairy products; drink water and low-fat milk instead of sugary drinks; eat lean protein sources; and examine the portion sizes on food items.

It’s also important to reduce your sodium intake to manage your blood pressure. To do this, review nutrition labels, eat fewer processed foods and avoid adding excess salt to your food. (Keep these tips in mind this holiday season. Many holiday favorites contain high levels of sodium.)

  • Quit smoking. Smoking increases your blood pressure for several minutes after finishing a cigarette. If you stop smoking, your blood pressure will return to normal. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death nationally. Visit www.okhelpline.com or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for help with quitting.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol and caffeine. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure and reduce the effectiveness of certain blood pressure medications. Caffeine intake may also raise your blood pressure.
  • Get plenty of rest. Insufficient sleep is linked to several chronic conditions, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and depression. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should receive at least seven hours of sleep each night.
  • Manage your stress. Chronic or long-term stress can have harmful effects on your overall health if not managed properly. Determine the cause of  your stress and make a plan to address it. This may include relaxation techniques, increasing activity levels, getting adequate sleep, staying organized and asking for help.

Norman Regional Health System remains committed to your health. Learn more about our telemedicine offerings and stay up-to-date on Norman Regional’s COVID-19 response efforts, which includes details on what to do if you think you may have COVID-19.