Every time you go to the doctor, she’s going to take a couple of numbers that can tell you a lot about your health. High cholesterol and high blood pressure can both lead to or be symptomatic of serious chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
The CDC talks about both of these conditions, what to know and how you can make lifestyle changes to keep these numbers in a healthy range.
Blood cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body produces naturally and uses to make hormones and digest fatty foods. Animal products like eggs, meat and cheese contain dietary cholesterol.
High cholesterol, which about one in six Americans has, could be caused by a number of factors, including family history, health conditions like obesity and lifestyle habits such as a diet high in saturated and trans fats, not getting enough exercise, smoking or drinking too much alcohol.
While there is medication to treat high cholesterol, you can make several lifestyle changes to manage your cholesterol more naturally. Eat foods that are low in saturated fats, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains; high in fiber, like beans; lean meats like fish and chicken; and foods with unsaturated fats like nuts and olive oil. Regular exercise, quitting smoking and keeping your weight under control also can help you manage your cholesterol.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, has two measurements: Systolic blood pressure, the top number, measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart beats, and the bottom number, the diastolic pressure, measures the pressure in the vessels when the heart is resting between beats. A normal blood pressure is 120/80; anything over 140/90 is high.
Hypertension can make your arteries hard, which means less oxygen is moving through your body, which can lead to heart attack, heart failure or a stroke. Left untreated, it can lead to chronic kidney disease.
Although about a third of Americans have high blood pressure, it doesn’t have any symptoms, so without getting checked by a doctor, you may not know if you have it. There isn’t any one identifiable cause, in most cases, although genetics, age, obesity and a poor diet. To manage it naturally, it’s a similar diet if you’re watching your cholesterol, with the added measure of watching out for your sodium intake.