May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. Often called the “silent killer,” high blood pressure is the most neglected condition in our country and accounts for 1,000 deaths per day. While an individual may not experience outward symptoms of high blood pressure, it is the single most important risk factor contributing to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, blindness, and the need for dialysis. Sadly, 90 percent of American adults will have high blood pressure in their lifetime.

In 2014, Saint Luke’s Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center became an official partner of the CDC’s Million Hearts® national initiative to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes in the U.S. by 2017. As a result of a passionate donor, Hedrick Medical Center (HMC), along with all Saint Luke’s Health System hospitals, received a blood pressure kiosk. Located in the Specialty Clinic waiting area, the blood pressure kiosk provides staff, visitors, and the community the opportunity to take ownership of their personal blood pressure.

“Checking your blood pressure on a regular basis and sharing these results with your health care provider is an important step in managing blood pressure,” says Christina Ferguson, RD LD, registered dietitian, Hedrick Medical Center Diabetes Clinic. “The kiosk here at Hedrick provides a really convenient way to track your levels. And by logging the results, it allows you to make changes to your lifestyle, and see how those changes affect your blood pressure over the course of time.”

Persons looking to better manage their blood pressure can implement these tips into their daily routine:

Aim for 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables Limit processed foods and restaurant meals Limit alcohol consumption Limit sodium intake to 1500-2000 mg/day Avoid prolonged sitting, exercise regularly Maintain or strive towards a normal body weight Stop smoking Take medicine if prescribed Keep record of your blood pressure

“These steps all look good on paper, but the key is finding ways to consistently weave them into our busy schedules,” says Ferguson. “Most of my patients are unaware of how much sodium they are eating. A misconception is that not adding salt at the table or when cooking is a low sodium diet. Sadly, it is easy to overconsume sodium because so much of what we buy at the store or eat at a restaurant is already high in sodium. Even low sodium foods can become high sodium if overconsumed. Tracking daily intake and reading food labels can be helpful in identifying foods high in sodium.”