February is American Heart Month, a time to focus on your cardiovascular health by doing things like eating healthy, staying active, and annual medical checkups.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Although there are some hypertension factors you can’t control, such as genetics, there are steps you can take to manage your blood pressure and work to prevent hypertension. Here are a few suggestions:
The Mayo Clinic recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of the two. Regular physical activity can help you maintain a normal blood pressure and avoid developing hypertension.
Some examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, or dancing. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) training, which involves alternating short bursts of intense activity with recovery periods of lighter activity, is also a great way to keep your heart healthy.
Part of managing your blood pressure includes eating a healthy diet. You should aim to have a diet rich in potassium, fiber, and protein and lower in sodium and saturated fat.
The CDC recommends the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NIH) Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. This is a healthy diet plan with a proven record of helping people lower their blood pressure. For information on the DASH eating plan click here.
Being overweight or having obesity increases your risk for high blood pressure. Specifically, carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of hypertension.
In general, men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches, and women are at greater risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches. These numbers vary among ethnic groups so be sure to ask your doctor about a healthy waist measurement for you.
Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Visit CDC’s Sleep and Sleep Disorders website for resources on how to get better sleep.
It’s important to see your doctor for regular checkups to monitor your blood pressure. Not only can your doctor track your blood pressure over time, but they can also be a great resource for ways to prevent hypertension and remain heart healthy. Generally, preventive care visits like annual physicals are covered at 100%.
As member of the Foreign Service Benefit Plan (FSBP) you also have access to multiple wellness programs and resources that can help keep your heart healthy. Try our Mediterranean Wellness Program, an 8-week interactive online program that includes access to a registered dietician. Check out our Health Coaching Program which provides the opportunity to work one-on-one with a coach to improve your health. For more information on these programs and the other wellness programs available to FSBP members, click here.
If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, we offer a Livongo Remote Hypertension Monitoring Program at no cost to FSBP members. This program provides a bluetooth-enabled blood pressure monitor and cuff, access to expert health coaches, a mobile app with real-time reading, and more.
Additionally, Controlling Blood Pressure is one of the conditions included in our Simple Steps to Living Well Together Program. You can earn up to $75 in your Wellness Incentive Fund Account by completing one of the Program’s Healthy Actions. To learn more about the Simple Steps to Living Well Together program and its benefits, click here.
 “10 Drug-Free Ways to Control High Blood Pressure.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 9 Jan. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20046974#:~:text=Eat%20a%20healthy%20diet,Stop%20Hypertension%20(DASH)%20diet.
 “Prevent High Blood Pressure.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 Feb. 2020, www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/prevent.htm.
 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH pdf icon[PDF – 792K]external icon. NIH Pub. No. 06-4082. Bethesda, MD: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; 2006.