BY JOHN HARDY
ABOUT ;; MILLION U.S. adults—one in
three—have high blood pressure (HBP),
according to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC;
According to the CDC, last year HBP was a
primary cause of death for more than
Put simply, most high blood pressure
happens when arteries get plugged up, a
little or a lot, by a waxy plaque. “For various
lifestyle reasons, high blood pressure is
more of a problem than ever,” says Dr.
Je;rey Sell, chief of cardiothoracic surgery
at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Florida
and a Costco member. “Blame stress, too
much salt, smoking, processed foods, obe-
sity and the side e;ects of medications.”
The American Heart Association
heart.org) issues regular updates
about HBP and heart disease. “The latest
stats are ba;ing,” says Brion Oaks, vice
president of AHA Southwest and a Costco
member in Austin, Texas. “While the inci-
dence of high blood pressure is way up
from ;; years ago, and ;; percent of
Americans know they have it, most refuse
to do anything about it.”
Volumes of medical research caution
that, if left uncontrolled, HBP can not
only lead to stroke, and eye and kidney
damage, but also dramatically spikes the
risk of heart disease, still the undisputed
No. ; cause of death for Americans.
“High blood pressure is also a notorious silent killer, because it has no warning
signs or symptoms,” Oaks warns.
Costco members can ;nd arm and wrist
blood pressure monitors, over-the-counter
and prescription medications, and exercise
equipment at Costco and on Costco.com.
; Lose weight. Blood pressure increases
as weight increases.
; Be salt smart. Read labels and reduce
anything with high levels of sodium.
; Eat healthier. Eating fruits, whole
grains, vegetables and low-fat dairy significantly lowers blood pressure.
; Limit alcohol. Practice moderation
(one or two drinks can actually lower
; Quit smoking. Each cigarette directly
spikes blood pressure.
; Cut down on coffee.
; Reduce stress.
; Exercise and be physically active. It
doesn’t have to be workouts. Walking is fine.
; Monitor blood pressure at home, and
discuss it regularly with your doctor.—JH
Lower the pressure
What the numbers mean
Blood pressure measures are identi;ed
as systolic and diastolic. Systolic is the top
number and measures the pressure when
the heart contracts and pumps blood.
Diastolic is the bottom number, when the
heart is resting and re;lling with blood.
Both top and bottom numbers are
important, but systolic pressure is more
signi;cant for cardiovascular disease.
Men vs. women, younger vs. older,
being overweight and other factors cause
di;erences in blood pressure readings.
“Normal is ;;;/;;. The ;;;/;; range is a
warning,” cautions Dr. Mark J. Ramos, a
cardiologist with the Intercoastal
Medical Group and a Costco
member in Sarasota, Florida.
“And ;;;–;;;/;;–;;; is
time to see the doctor.”
All of this explains why
more doctors recommend
that Americans track their
blood pressure at home.
“Self-monitoring is important for both the initial diagnosis
and the proper management of high
blood pressure,” according to Ramos.
“Blood pressure levels are often falsely
elevated by ‘white coat syndrome,’
because many people are uncomfortable
and nervous in a doctor’s o;ce.”
“Blood pressure monitors for home
use are a reliable way for people to identify
their own range of measurements, and
[they allow] the doctor to properly diag-
nose and develop suitable treatment
plans,” explains Carol Lucarelli, an execu-
tive with Omron Healthcare, a Costco
supplier, and a Costco member in Lake
Forest, Illinois. “Our ultimate goal with
self-monitoring is to reduce a person’s
risk for heart attack and stroke.”
There is much documented proof
about the value of tracking one’s blood
pressure at home. “The AHA stats show
that only about ;; percent of people with
HBP have it under control. That’s why
self-monitoring is vital,” urges Oaks. “It
detects important warning signs. Just
lowering the systolic number by as little as
;; can mean a ;; to ;; percent reduction
in the risk of mortality.” C
John Hardy is a lifestyle writer and a Costco
member who self-monitors in Venice, Florida.
FOR YOUR HEALTH