UNDERSTANDING HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE AND HOW TO PREVENT IT
A person is considered to have high blood pressure once his/her blood pressure reads higher than normal. Higher than normal would be a number higher than 140 over 90. If your number reads thus, you are considered to be hypertensive.
But what exactly is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood in the circulatory system. This is an essential part of how the human heart and circulatory system works. It is closely related to the rate of the heartbeat and the width and stretchiness of the arterial walls. Blood pressure fluctuates all the time as it adjusts to fit in with the heart’s needs, depending on the activity you are engaged in at the time.
So, for blood pressure to be considered high, it must be persistently higher than normal, and not just a one-off occurrence.
Because it is in the news ever so much and because we all know at least one person battling high blood pressure, we all know the terrible impact it can have on the human body, the first being that it puts extra strain on the heart and blood vessels. After a while, this extra strain multiplies the chances of developing a stroke or having a heart attack.
It is also said that high blood pressure can lead to other heart and kidney diseases, and is a precursor to some forms of dementia.
Here are the primary causes of high blood pressure:
- Excessive salt intake
- Lack of/inadequate fruit and vegetables in a diet
- General physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Age: As we get older, blood pressure can increase, but this is compounded when the affected person led an unhealthy lifestyle when young.
- Ethnic origin: Research shows that people of African-Caribbean and South Asian origin are at greater risk of developing blood pressure than their counterparts from other parts of the world.
- Family history: People who have had other members of their families have high blood pressure are at greater risk of having it too.
Symptoms of high blood pressure
The sad thing is that there are usually no warning signs for high blood pressure and you may have it without even realizing it. To find out if you are suffering from high blood pressure or not, the only way is to get checked for it.
Preventing high blood pressure
If you have not yet been diagnosed with high blood pressure but want to take personal steps to avoid it, here are the healthy lifestyle choices to make:
- Maintain a weight that is healthy: Weight is crucial when it comes to hypertension. This means that you should try to lose weight if you are overweight and try to maintain your weight if you are of normal weight. It’s been medically researched and proven that losing as little as 10 pounds can help someone prevent high blood pressure.
- Reduce your salt intake: If you follow a diet plan that is low in sodium, you are already a step ahead of most people in keeping your blood pressure normal because the higher the sodium intake, the higher the blood pressure.
- Go for a balanced diet: An unhealthy diet aggravates and can bring on hypertension while eating healthful foods can help you to keep your blood pressure under control. So, go for plenty of fruits and vegetables, good protein, and limited carbs, fat, and sugar.
- Exercise more often: Inactivity breeds high blood pressure, so you need to get moving to prevent it. Moderate exercise that takes about half an hour four to five times a week is good for maintaining heart health.
- Limit your alcohol intake: Aim for no more than an alcoholic drink per day.
- Check your blood pressure often: As high blood pressure often occurs with no prior symptoms, ensure that you have your blood pressure regularly measured so you can catch prehypertension before it turns to full-blown hypertension.
Managing high blood pressure
High blood pressure, if not managed properly, can damage the heart. But there is good news after all. If you already suffer from high blood pressure, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make/implement to lower your blood pressure. Here they are:
- Exercise: Exercising often is one of the most brilliant ways to lower high blood pressure, as it makes the heart stronger and much more effective at pumping blood, and this automatically lowers the pressure in your arteries. If you before being diagnosed have not been much of an exercise person, start off walking.
- Cut out salt completely: If you want to go the radical way, cut out salt from your diet completely. If you cannot, cut your sodium intake by more than half. Swap processed foods with fresh ones and season your food with herbs and spices, rather than salt.
- Drink less alcohol: Limit your drinking to not more than one drink a day for women, and two for men.
- Go for foods that are rich in potassium: Potassium is very important because it helps the body to get rid of sodium in the body and by so doing eases the pressure on the blood vessels. So, go for foods such as leafy greens, tomatoes, potatoes, fruits (such as melons, bananas, apricots, and avocados), dairy, fish such as tuna and salmon, beans and lentils, and nuts and seeds.
- Consume less caffeine: Caffeine causes an instant boost to your blood pressure, so cut back as much as you can on the coffee and the energy drinks.
- Manage the stress in your life: Stress drives high blood pressure up. This is because your body is in a constant fight-or-flight mode when you are stressed, leading to a faster heart rate and narrowed blood vessels. So, manage your stress by working less, listening to soothing music, going for a walk, doing yoga or whatever else calms you.
- If you are overweight, lose weight: Losing just five percent of your body mass can lower your high blood pressure significantly, as losing weight helps your blood vessels become more effective at expanding and contracting, and this makes it easier for the heart’s left ventricle to pump blood.
- Stop smoking: Smoking constitutes a strong risk factor for heart disease, as the chemicals in tobacco are known to damage blood vessels, so quit smoking sooner rather than later.
- Limit your intake of added sugar and refined carbs: Drink less soda, use less table sugar, and eat less of food made with white flour.