About 1 in 3 U.S. adults–an estimated 68 million—have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Blood pressure is measured by the force of the pressure of blood against the artery walls as it circulates through the body. Referred to as the “silent killer,” high blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and stroke without showing any signs or symptoms. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death and strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Many people don’t know they have high blood pressure, which is why it is important to get your blood pressure checked. Even if you have been tested and don’t have high blood pressure, regular screening is important because it helps detect risk factors for heart disease in its earliest stages, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). The AHA recommends blood pressure screenings at each regular healthcare visit or, starting at age 20, at least once every 2 years if your blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg.
The best defense against high blood pressure is preventive treatment. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the following therapies are associated with reductions in blood pressure:
- Reduction of dietary sodium intake
- Potassium supplementation (remember to talk to your doctor before taking any new supplements)
- Increased physical activity, weight loss
- Stress management
- Reduction of alcohol intake
There are many risk factors that can be managed to help lower your blood pressure. The CDC offers an extensive list of preventive steps you can take to reduce your risk of high blood pressure, but some of the most common methods include eating a healthy, low-sodium diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and being physically active.
There are many places where you can get your blood pressure screened for free or at a low cost. Many businesses have blood pressure machines you can use. Some examples of free testing areas are:
- Local drugstores and pharmacies –many of them have blood pressure machines located in the pharmacy area
- Larger grocery stores –their blood pressure machines are also usually stationed near the pharmacy
- Some employers offer free blood pressure screenings at on-site health and wellness fairs –make sure to take advantage of these if they’re available to you
- Fire stations
- Check your city or county community events calendar –many places like libraries, community centers, and more hold free blood pressure screenings
Although not always the most low-cost resource for blood pressure screening, the best place to get your blood pressure tested is often your doctor’s office. This routine test is generally part of your doctor appointment. Getting tested at your doctor’s office has many benefits, particularly that the test is being done by a medical professional and that your results are being recorded in your medical charts. But be aware that some studies have shown that blood pressure readings tend to be higher when being screened in a doctor’s office, according to Mayo Clinic. This is called “white coat hypertension” because some patients feel more stressed in a doctor’s office, which can cause their blood pressure levels to spike.