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Prairie Fare: May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a high blood pressure diagnosis results when you have repeated readings of 140 over 90.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

My day began as usual. I jump-started my day with a cup of coffee and got myself ready for work. Then I helped get our three kids ready for school. They weren't too anxious to hop out of bed.

I dropped the kids off at three different places and then I ran a quick errand before driving to my annual health checkup.

To energize myself, I had another cup of coffee on the way. I took a shortcut and, of course, ended up waiting for a long train. I thought I was going to be late.

At least I didn't have to wait when I arrived at the clinic, I thought to myself as I was ushered immediately to my room.

When the nurse took my blood pressure and compared it with my records, she looked at me and said with a note of concern, "Your blood pressure is considerably higher than your normal readings."

I'm sure my blood pressure escalated more after she told me. My usual blood pressure probably makes health professionals question whether I'm alive.

I usually don't have "white coat syndrome," where blood pressure readings elevate when a health-care professional approaches with a cuff, a cup or other tools of the medical trade.

Then it dawned on me. I had broken a rule of thumb that says "no coffee within 30 minutes of a blood pressure check." I knew better, but I was preoccupied and a little stressed, too.

Fortunately, my blood pressure was rechecked later after I was "decaffeinated" and more relaxed. I was back to normal.

Do you know your numbers? Blood pressure is a set of two numbers, with the measurements in units of millimeters of mercury. The top number (systolic pressure) measures the force of your heart beating. The bottom number (diastolic pressure) measures the relaxation between beats.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a high blood pressure diagnosis results when you have repeated readings of 140 over 90, or 130 over 80 if you have diabetes or kidney disease. "Prehypertension" is the term given to readings from 120 to 139 over 80 to 89.

May, National High Blood Pressure Education Month, is a good time to know your numbers. About one in three American adults has high blood pressure. High blood pressure is considered a "silent killer" because often there are no symptoms at first. Through time, high blood pressure is linked to stroke, kidney disease and heart disease.

Before a blood pressure check, avoid caffeine and smoking, and relax a few minutes before the measurement is taken. Use a restroom, if needed, because a full bladder can affect blood pressure readings. Sit straight with your feet flat on the floor during the blood pressure check.

While we can't control risk factors, such as our age or family history, we can make lifestyle changes to be healthier. The DASH diet (short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is an eating plan that's high in fruits, vegetables and calcium-rich dairy foods. Anyone can follow this plan for good health.

For more information about the DASH Diet, visit this Web site at For more information about a North Dakota heart health program targeting women, visit

Here's a DASH diet recipe for a summertime favorite.

New Potato Salad

16 small new potatoes

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 c. green onions, chopped

1/4 tsp. black pepper (fresh ground, if available)

1 tsp. dill weed, dried

Thoroughly clean the potatoes with a vegetable brush and water. Boil the potatoes for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and cool the potatoes for 20 minutes. Cut potatoes into quarters and mix with the olive oil, onions and spices. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes five 1-cup servings. A serving has 196 calories, 6 grams (g) of fat, 34 g of carbohydrate, 17 milligrams of sodium and 4 g of fiber.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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