Heart Health

GatorCare offers resources and education to help manage your heart’s health through behavior and lifestyle modification. With simple changes in diet, medication, and exercise you and your doctor may reduce your risk of suffering from heart disease or stroke.

Heart Smart Program points eligible icon

GatorCare members 18 years and older with a history of high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, or other risk factors for heart disease are invited to join this free program to earn tools toward healthier living. This six-part series will run from October 6 to November 10. Participants will earn Wellness Points at completion of the program. All webinars take place at noon and are about 45 minutes long.

Webinar topics

  • October 6: A Closer Look at Heart Disease and Stroke. View the recording here.
  • October 13: The Science Behind Habit Formation. View the recording here.
  • October 20: Simplifying Nutrition and Weight Control. Recording coming soon.
  • October 27: Stress, Depression, and Heart Disease. View the recording here.
  • November 3: Using Medications Wisely
  • November 10: Re-thinking Physical Activity and Goal Setting

Questions? Email Jon Vrendenburg.

What is hypertension?

Hypertension is having blood pressure higher than 130/80 mmHg. It’s normal to have high blood pressure for short periods of time but when your blood pressure stays high most of the time, it can cause serious health issues such as a heart attack or stroke. For most adults, hypertension develops gradually over many years without an identifiable cause (primary hypertension) but for others it is a sign of an underlying disease (secondary hypertension) such as kidney disease or hyperthyroidism.

Why is hypertension so dangerous?

High blood pressure causes more pressure and strain on your artery walls and can damage your blood vessels and organs. The increased pressure inside the vessels causes damage to the inner lining of the arteries which leads to plaque formation, or atherosclerosis. This plaque formation causes the inside of the vessel to narrow overtime if not stopped, putting you at risk for heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to:

  • Vision loss
  • Loss of kidney function
  • Metabolic syndrome (high triglycerides; low HDL, “the good cholesterol”; and high insulin levels)
  • Increased risk for diabetes
  • Memory loss or dementia
  • Aneurysm
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Heart failure

Are you at risk?

There are many risk factors that can contribute to the development of hypertension:

  • Physical inactivity
  • Being overweight
  • A salt-rich diet through processed and fatty foods
  • Diet low in potassium – potassium can help balance sodium in your cells
  • Alcohol and/or tobacco use
  • Stress
  • Family history of hypertension
  • Age – prevalence is higher in people over age 60
  • Race – African-American adults are at higher risk than white or Hispanic adults
  • Sex – men are more prone to hypertension at younger ages; women are more prone at older ages
  • Certain chronic conditions such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea

Reduce your risk

  • Have regular check-ups with your doctor to have your blood pressure checked and discuss your risks. Need a doctor? Visit the Network Directory for a list of physicians.
  • Track your blood pressure (click here for a printable tracker sheet).
  • Eat a healthier diet with less salt. Try the DASH dietDietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
  • Exercise regularly (going for a walk every day can help lower your blood pressure).
  • Commit to quit tobacco. Need help quitting? Visit the Health Resources Tobacco page for more resources.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Maintain a healthy weight or lose extra weight (GatorCare members* are eligible for a discounted WW membership).
  • Practice relaxation or slow, deep breathing.
  • Keep a copy of this printable sheet for reminders of symptoms and an easy reference guide to living well with hypertension.

More resources

Florida Blue members can speak with a health coach at no additional cost by calling 1.877.789.2583 at any time, day or night. Click here to learn more.

Gainesville Florida Blue members may call the GatorCare office for a free blood pressure screening at 352.733.9202.

For more information, visit the American Heart Association.

*Excludes GatorGradCare