Exercise, still best defense against hypertension

  • Published
  • By Capt. Josh Johnston
  • Medical Group
Are you one of those people who want to lose a few pounds in 2006? 

For African-Americans, the incentive may be even greater. They have the highest incidence of high blood pressure among all major racial groups in America. In turn, high blood pressure precipitates a countless number of strokes, heart attacks and chronic kidney failure each year. All leading to the disability or death of those we love. 

What does high blood pressure have to do with losing extra pounds? Evidence continues to mount that being overweight is one of the single most important variables in the development of high blood pressure. However, it is definitely one over which we have ultimate control. Consider these findings: African-Americans have twice the risk of developing high blood pressure as those living in western Africa. Why is this? Many reasons may immediately come to mind, but research shows that a good portion of this difference is explained by comparing one simple number. That number is your body mass index. 

You may have heard of this number related to the Air Force's fitness program, or maybe your doctor mentioned it to you at your last visit, or maybe you have not heard of it at all. BMI is calculated as using your height and weight resulting in a number that for most people will fall somewhere between 20 and 40. (See the figure below to calculate your own BMI and then ask your health care provider what your goal should be.) Lowering your number could be a critical step in reducing your risk of developing high blood pressure, or if you already have high blood pressure this could keep your disease from progressing or even reverse its course. 

True, BMI does have its limitations. If you are body builder, it will make you look less healthy than you might be. But let's be honest, most of us aren't thick because of muscle. 

As you enjoy enjoy yourself this month, be a part of building a heritage of health. 

The habits we learn and practice every day are habits that will change very little over the rest of our lives.