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Take charge of blood pressure

Children have it. Older people have it. Men and women, black and white and other races — they all have it.

It is one of the most common medical diagnoses and most common chronic health conditions in the United States, and yet for most people, there are things they can do to help improve it.

We’re talking, of course, about high blood pressure. It’s often called “the silent killer” because it has no symptoms but can lead to multiple life-threatening conditions including stroke, heart attack and kidney failure.

The American Heart Association and Bon Secours Mercy Health recently kicked off a four-month program to help city of Suffolk employees take charge of their blood pressure. Because the first step to reducing high blood pressure is knowing you have high blood pressure, the program will allow city employees to have their blood pressure checked for free every other Thursday through June.

The program will also give them resources and knowledge to help them learn how they can reduce their blood pressure — things like losing weight, eating well, restricting sodium intake, being more physically active, moderating alcohol consumption and quitting tobacco products.

In previous similar programs, people reduced their systolic blood pressure by 10 points when they were able to have it checked eight times in a four-month period, MeShall Hills, executive director of the Hampton Roads Chapter of the American Heart Association, told a News-Herald reporter covering the new Suffolk program recently. That’s how officials know this program can work for people who want to take charge of their health.

The facts about high blood pressure sound dire. More than 75 percent of adults over 65 have high blood pressure, and 10 percent of children ages 8 to 17 have high blood pressure. African Americans are more likely than people of other races to have high blood pressure. Overall, more than 103 million people in the United States have high blood pressure, including 35 percent of all people in Hampton Roads.

But the good news is that many people can control it by making the lifestyle changes listed above. We applaud the city and the leaders of this program for helping city employees take charge of their health and encourage everybody, city employee or not, to use this as a motivating factor in your health journey.