by Amelia Meigs, ATC

Industrial athletes work hard every day. Ensuring our heart is in good condition keeps us healthy for the long run. For February, American Heart Month, let’s discuss a way to keep our bodies running well so we’re not at risk for time away from work or the activities we enjoy with the people we love.

The Silent Killer

Occupational workers are more likely to have high blood pressure than an average adult, considering factors such as job stress, noise exposure, and shift work. Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure – often called the silent killer because it doesn’t show visible effects or signs of sickness.

Regular Maintenance

This month, let’s think about our body as a car. We wouldn’t let our car go 5 years without changing the oil, would we? Regular maintenance keeps our cars in good condition, and regular preventive maintenance can keep our bodies in good condition, too. Let’s break that down:

– Our heart is the engine to our body – it pumps blood, which supplies our muscles with oxygen and energy (glucose).

– If the valves in our body are stiffer, it causes our heart to work harder to get us the blood we need.

– Keep your engine running clean by supplying your body with the nutrients it needs to function.

– Use your engine regularly by exercising frequently.

– Blood pressure varies throughout the day and typically peaks midafternoon.

– Blood pressure can go up after drinking coffee, smoking, or exercise.

Principles Of Prevention

How can you be more aware of your blood pressure and regular preventative maintenance on your car’s engine? Check out these FAQs.

So what is a good level for my blood pressure?

Less than 120/80 is the gold standard for blood pressure. High blood pressure is diagnosed at 130/80 and higher.

What do those numbers mean?

The number on top is the highest pressure in your “pipes”/arteries. The number on the bottom is the lowest pressure in the pipes. Keeping both numbers within a healthy range is most important.

How can I get my blood pressure measured?

Your healthcare provider should be your first stop, but ask your injury prevention specialist if they can help!

I got my blood pressure taken once, and it was high. Does that mean I have high blood pressure?

To find your most accurate blood pressure, take 2 readings in the morning at least 5 minutes apart and 2 readings in the evening 5 minutes apart. Repeat these readings for 2 days.

Blood pressure should always be taken after resting for 5 minutes without talking with feet on the floor. Before taking my BP, no smoking, no caffeine, no exercise.

Bring this information to your doctor for follow up.

Am I at risk for heart disease?

Use this calculator to test your risk for heart disease.

So, what’s a plan for high blood pressure prevention?

Exercise: Walk briskly for 30 minutes, 3 times a week. This is exercise that gets your heart rate up! Add 5 minutes every week until you hit your blood pressure goal!

Diet: Check your sodium – less than 2000 mg is the goal for those with high blood pressure! Keep an eye on foods high in saturated fat such as fatty meat and fried foods. Eat more potassium (3500mg a day), and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Stress: Stress can contribute to high blood pressure. If you recognize you are under stress, research coping tools. 

Sleep: Getting less than 7 hours per night on average or poor quality sleep (sleep apnea) can contribute to high BP, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke risk. Prioritize sleep when you can – we know life gets in the way! If you snore, consider getting assesses for sleep apnea, a common cause for elevated blood pressure and treatment will be targeted differently. 

Smoking: All smoking, including cannabis products and vaping, contributes to a risk of heart disease. Quitting smoking is a serious undertaking and often requires outside support. Check out your employee beneftis!

Weight: Elevated Body Mass Index has been shown to correlate with high blood pressure. A goal BMI is 18-25 where the US has an average BMI of 29.35. Research demonstrates that every 1 point above appropriate BMI results in a 1-2 point elevation in blood pressure. Weight loss is key to a healthy heart.

Amelia Meigs, MS, ATC || Amelia is a Certified Athletic Trainer in Fremont, CA. She grew up in the Seattle-area and went to school at Marquette University and Saint Louis University for her Master of Athletic Training. She worked for a few years in the secondary school setting, then moved abroad for a year to New Zealand! In her free time she likes to travel, bake, and hike with her wife in San Jose.

Be sure to check out our other blogs for further injury prevention education and tips for the industrial athlete from Work Right NW!