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Heart disease ranks as leading cause of death Maryland

Baltimore, Md —  The Maryland Department of Health is encouraging Marylanders to focus on heart health and to get their families, friends, and communities involved during American Heart Month, which began Feb. 1.

In Maryland, heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death among both men and women. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, increases a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke. At least one in three Maryland adults has high blood pressure, but many do not know they have it, since there are usually no warning signs or symptoms.

In November 2017, the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association jointly published new evidence-based recommendations for lower “normal” blood pressure that would help prevent heart disease and stroke in the American population. The new target blood pressure for the general population is below 120/80. In the past, blood pressure below 140/90 was acceptable. Following the new guidelines, hypertension is defined as any blood pressure greater than 130/80. Many people previously told they had “prehypertension,” will now have a diagnosis of hypertension. For many of these people, who do not have other heart disease or stroke risks, the treatment is lifestyle modification to include less dietary sodium, more potassium, more exercise, lower alcohol consumption, and weight loss. For people at higher risk for heart disease and stroke, treatment may include medications that help reduce blood pressure.

The new guidelines provide an opportunity for early intervention to help protect individuals from heart disease and stroke. The recommendations also encourage important patient-provider conversations about high blood pressure screening and management, and focus renewed attention on referral programs throughout the state.

Some statewide initiatives include:

  • Collaboration with dental professionals to routinely screen oral health patients for high blood pressure;
  • Technical assistance to primary care practices across the state to screen for hypertension and improve control for those with hypertension; and
  • Promotion of healthy eating and physical activity in communities, schools, parks, and Healthiest Maryland Businesses workplaces.

Marylanders are urged to take important steps to protect their heart health by:

  • Having their blood pressure measured today;
  • Learning about self-monitoring your blood pressure, if it is high;
  • Losing weight if needed and keeping a healthy body weight;
  • Eating a healthy diet such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, limit salt, and eat potassium-rich foods;
  • Getting regular physical activity; and
  • Limiting alcohol (no more than one drink per day for women, two drinks per day for men).

The full American College of Cardiology guidelines can be found here. Additional information about Maryland’s efforts to reduce heart disease, high blood pressure, and self-monitoring of blood pressure is located here.

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