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Million Hearts Health Initiative: Make Yours One of Them

High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects nearly 68 million US adults, a staggering number. Worse still, as a risk factor for heart disease and stroke among other serious health conditions, high blood pressure is implicated in some way in 1 of every 7 deaths, both among the elderly and middle-aged people. And worst of all, half the adults with high blood pressure don't have their condition under control—many don't even know they have it because, unlike arthritis for example, high blood pressure has no symptoms of its own.

A similar situation exists in our country with high cholesterol, and specifically the bad type of cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Over 70 million Americans have high LDL, but less than half are being treated for it and only a third have it under control. High cholesterol, too, is a "silent" condition—no symptoms of its own—but one that raises your risk for serious, often life-threatening diseases.

The high blood pressure and high cholesterol epidemics spurred the development of Million Hearts, a US Department of Health and Human Services initiative led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, with the goal of preventing one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. To help achieve this goal, Million Hearts wants the number of Americans whose high blood pressure is controlled to increase by 10 million. Self-measured blood pressure monitoring (SMBP) and support, possibly by telemedicine with your stats monitored by a health professional via your computer or phone, is one way to lower your risk of disability or death from high blood pressure. Taking your blood pressure is easy to do at home or anywhere you are. Home blood pressure monitors are inexpensive, accurate and easy to use. If you have a loved one with high blood pressure, this can be one of the best gifts for seniors you could give him or her.

To manage high blood pressure, taking medications regularly as prescribed, along with a better diet and exercise, is a must to lower your numbers—steps that can also help lower high cholesterol. Remembering to take meds is one of the biggest problems people have, and one of the primary reasons their health conditions aren't under control. Pill organizers and reminders.

If you don't know your blood pressure and your cholesterol levels, get tested—drugstores like CVS often have free testing available or look for free health fairs at your local hospital, clinic or senior center. Then make an appointment with a health professional to develop a treatment plan you can live with.

Here are steps from the Million Hearts initiative to get you started:

  • PREVENT heart disease and stroke in your family by UNDERSTANDING the risks.
  • GET UP and GET ACTIVE by exercising for 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • KNOW your ABCS:
    • Appropriate Aspirin Therapy
    • Blood Pressure Control
    • Cholesterol Management
    • Smoking Cessation
  • STAY STRONG by eating a heart-healthy diet that is high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in sodium, saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol.
  • TAKE CONTROL of your heart health by following your health care professional's instructions for medications treatment.

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