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May is National High Blood Pressure and Stroke Awareness Month

by Kyle Washburn
Health & Fitness Editor
Saturday May 19, 2012

Contributed from

May is both the National High Blood Pressure Education Month and National Stroke Awareness Month, as declared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The two go hand in hand, as high blood pressure increases your risk of stroke. A third of all Americans suffer from high blood pressure and nearly 800,000 will suffer a stroke this year. Of those, more than 130,000 will die.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are partnering together to launch "Million Hearts," a campaign to save over 1 million hearts by the year 2017. One of the ways you can help your heart is to lower your blood pressure.

Some ways to lower your blood pressure include:

  • A healthy diet full of vegetables and fruits and reduced sodium intake
  • A healthy body weight
  • Increased physical activity
  • Quitting smoking and reduced alcohol consumption

    Recent studies also show that vitamin D sufficiency can be an important step in improving your heart health and blood pressure.

    Here are the details:

    Vitamin D and blood pressure
    In April, a research group in Denmark announced that 3,000 IU of vitamin D per day lowered systolic and diastolic central blood pressure by nearly 7 points and 2 points respectively compared to placebo in patients with high blood pressure! They administered the dosage for 20 weeks over winter, when vitamin D is harder to produce with decreased sun exposure.

    Vitamin D and stroke
    In March, a Harvard group released a study that took a look at over 400 patients who suffered from a stroke, matched them with over 400 controls who did not suffer from a stroke and compared vitamin D blood levels and risk of stroke. They found that people in the lowest vitamin D tertile (mean level of 14 ng/ml) had a higher risk of suffering a stroke than those in the highest tertile (31 g/ml).

    What can you do?
    For heart health, it is important to maintain a healthy diet, a healthy weight and keep physically active. Vitamin D may be one small factor in improving blood pressure and decreasing stroke risk. Studies show that supplementing with vitamin D and maintaining sufficient blood levels can contribute in lowering blood pressure and risk of stroke. Be sure to work with your doctor to improve your heart health and ask how you might fine tune your vitamin D supplementation and sun exposure habits.

  • Kyle Washburn is the National Health and Fitness Editor at Edge Publications, Inc. He earned a BS in Physiology, M.Ed in Sport Psychology and Counseling and an MBA. He is a certified personal trainer through NASM and ACE and has been training for over ten years. He is an avid triathlete, softball and tennis player, runner, hiker and enjoys the outdoors.


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