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Hypertension or high blood pressure (HBP) is emerging as a major lifestyle disease and a significant majority of populations in all countries around the world are living with this disorder. Nearly, 29% of the population or approximately 70 million individuals in US are hypertensive. In other words, 1 out of every 3 persons in the country is beset with hypertension.
Another factor worth noting is that these individuals have HPB that is above normal but is below the ‘very high blood pressure range’ (1). An individual with a blood pressure that lies within the range of 120/80 mmHg-139/89 mmHg is regarded as pre-hypertensive. Any reading beyond 140/90 mmHg is regarded as acutely hypertensive (2).
Erratic and/or poor lifestyle habits, obesity, unbridled consumption of junk or processed foods, regular alcohol intake, and excessive ingestion of sodium are some of the causative factors that individually or in concert cause BP or HBP. Other risk factors including but not limited to abnormal level of blood cholesterol, tobacco use, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, ageing, and genetic predisposition also contribute towards development of hypertension.
HBP puts the onus on the heart to work harder in order to pump out blood from the left ventricle that ultimately leads to ventricular hypertrophy. Ventricular hypertrophy causes muscles of the left ventricle to become enlarged and hardened leading to a condition called atherosclerosis. Unusual hardening narrows down the passage through which the blood passes (stenosis) thereby putting extra pressure on the heart to pump blood out via the arteries (3).
If you’re diagnosed with hypertension, it indicates that your normal blood pressure will, in all likelihood, remain elevated for the better part of the day or night. And it follows from this that if your blood pressure always stays spiked- up, there is every possibility of yours suffering a stroke or heart attack. Heart attack is the foremost cause of death in America and strokes account for the third-highest number of deaths.
Approximately 67% of people aged 65 and beyond have hypertension, and if your BP reading is within the range mentioned above by the time you’re 55-years old, there’s a high probability, you’ll develop HBP later in your life.
So, there’s no escaping from this disorder as you’re certainly to suffer from the same at some stage in your life (2).
Both the systolic and diastolic numbers matter for determining or gauging HBP. Nevertheless, it is the first or the systolic reading that takes precedence when someone aged 50 and above gets his or her BP checked. Usually, a reading of 140 mmHg or more is considered as extremely hypertensive.
What recourses are open to you for controlling or bringing down your HBP to normal levels? Of course, if you’ve a family history or are hereditarily indisposed, there’s nothing you can do about it. So, leaving aside the intrinsic or inherent determinant, there’s a lot you can do about controllable factors that undoubtedly have a considerable impact on the spiking of your blood pressure.
Once it is medically established that you’ve high blood pressure in the hypertensive range, you’ll be prescribed medicines for keeping the same under leash and/or reducing it. The physician might prescribe diuretics, beta or alpha blockers, calcium-channel blockers or vasodilators for restoring your blood pressure to normal levels, depending upon the state of your health.
However, the medications will have side-effects that might discourage you from taking them as per your doctor’s recommendations. Luckily, you can control your BP or HBP considerably without having to resort to medicines, especially if it has been determined that you’ve been suffering from it not too long ago. The following tips or guidelines will go a long way in helping you to lower both your abnormal systolic and diastolic readings.
Increase in your weight automatically pushes up your blood pressure, regardless of whether the augmentation is sudden or gradual. Being overweight also causes sleep apnea (snoring) that might spike up your blood pressure further.
Even losing 7-10 pounds will lead to a considerable reduction in your BP levels.
Additionally, being overweight or obese puts you at high risk of suffering from heart disease, stroke, diabetes or high blood cholesterol. Find out your body mass index as well as the circumference of your waist. If your BMI number is between 18.5 and 24.9, then you’ve a normal weight; if it lies within 25-29.9, then you’re overweight and if it is 30 and beyond, then you’re obese (7).
If your waist measures more than 40 inches (or 102cm) then your BP will remain high. Women with waist over 35 inches are at high risk of being in the hypertensive zone. You’ll have to work out vigorously and maintain a healthy dieting plan in order to slim down.
What goes inside your mouth makes a big difference to what you’re BP level will be. Dieticians, nutritionists, and healthcare professionals are of the opinion that switching to a vegan diet will not only enable to you to bring down HBP but also let you stay healthy on the whole. Reduce your intake of animal protein, processed dairy products, and junk foods and replace these with fruits, vegetables, and items made from whole foods.
Red meats, sugary and saturated fat-rich foods lead to deposition of more fat around your waist and spikes up your bad cholesterol (HDL) levels. Prepare a dieting chart and try your level best to stick to it. Also, consume veggies and fruits that are rich in potassium.
If you’re in the habit of adding a pinch of table salt to foods in order to make these more delectable, then it’s high time you kicked the habit. Are you aware that even a minuscule lessening of sodium chloride intake could curb your BP by 2-8mmHg. In general, the normal daily sodium intake should not exceed 23mg and if you’re highly sensitive to sodium, then you should consider cutting it down to 15mg or lesser on a daily basis.
In case you’re an Afro-American, aged 50 and above, and have high BP or diabetes, you should be very cautious about your salt consumption. Buy food items only after you’ve gone through the ingredient listing; reduce consumption of processed foods and slowly give up intake of raw salt.
Unbridled alcohol consumption can lead to a shooting up of your blood pressure. On the other hand, curbing down your drinking habit will gradually cause your BP to drop. You should cultivate the practice of drinking moderately. For men, moderate drinking would involve sipping two rounds of drink and for women it is just one. One round of drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of ale or beer. You’ll be better off avoiding spirits that contain a high percentage of alcohol including whiskeys, rums, brandies, and vodkas. Drinking lightly and/or in moderation, will lower your BP at least by 3-5 mmHg.
Working out or exercising regularly at least for half an hour daily is an absolute necessity if you want positive results. All healthcare experts and professionals, bodybuilders and dieticians overwhelmingly agree on the necessity of physical activities for keeping fit and trim. Cycling, swimming or simply walking or jogging can help you to lower BP by 4-9mmHg.
Keep nothing less than 30 minutes aside from your busy schedule everyday for exercising. More significantly, you’ll need to be consistent with your workout regimen as opting out of exercises will inevitably result in your BP shooting up. It is best to get in touch with a fitness expert or a medical practitioner to chalk out an exercising regimen that’ll be appropriate for you.
Diehard and inveterate smokers are very much aware of that smoking is highly injurious for their wellbeing. Figuratively or numerically speaking, smoking a single cigarette snuffs and puffs out 5 minutes from your life. Now multiply that figure with the total number of cigarettes you’ve smoked in your life so far, and you’ll know how many years from your lifetime have already gone up in smoke.
Nicotine in cigarette smoke is incredibly toxic that causes your blood to clot as well as leads to atherosclerosis and arteriostenosis that ultimately pushes up your blood pressure. Although you’ll come across tons of literature on how to quit smoking, the best way of doing so would be to decide for once and for all that you’ll not smoke, and stick to your decision.
Though most scientists and researchers don’t agree on the generalization that caffeine has an adverse effect on your BP, there is enough circumstantial evidence to prove otherwise. Most researches and studies have drawn a blank on the negative effects of caffeine. However, a trial carried out by the Medical Center of Duke University corroborated that downing three cups of coffee (each cup of 8-ounce)-that was equivalent to consuming 500mg of caffeine-caused a 4mmHg rise in blood pressure.
Jim Lane, associate research professor at the university, and the authority steering the trial opines “when you’re under stress, your heart starts pumping a lot more blood, boosting blood pressure, and caffeine exaggerates that effect”. Caffeine is also found in tea and cola drinks but its concentration is highest in coffee. So, obviously the solution lies in drinking less cups of coffee or switching to decaffeinated coffee.
Technological advancements in the medial realm now make it possible to for you to gauge your BP right in the comfort of your home. Tip Pulse Oxymeter, blood pressure monitor, and upper arm BP monitor are some types of medical instruments that let you take readings without the assistance of a healthcare expert.
You can buy a BP monitor from the market or place an online order for the same at the official site of the OEM and procuring the same is easy as you don’t need a prescription for it. If monitoring your BP at home doesn’t prove to be effective, then you’ll need to visit your family physician or a GP more often. Or else, visiting once in every four months will be okay.
Even increased sugar intake can cause your normal blood pressure to increase. Numerous processed foods that you buy from the supermarket or order online are laced with sugars or sweeteners that you may not always be able to crosscheck owing to paucity of time. Your body processes the normal amount of glucose that it requires for functioning efficiently and stores the excess sugar in the form of fat.
More often than not, your system uses up more insulin than is necessary for breaking down glucose to release maximum energy. Subsequently, the body runs of the requisite level of insulin for complete glucose breakdown in the future. The extra sugar is hoarded as fatty lipids making you overweight and obese in the long run. And obesity is a major risk factor contributing to an abnormal increase in blood pressure. You need to keep a close tab on your sugar intake.
It does not need to be emphasized that your food habits have a substantial bearing on your blood pressure levels. So, you’ll need to watch what you’re eating. If you’re someone with a protracted history of the disease, then you’ll need to prepare a sensible and well-balanced dieting regimen in consultation with a dietician or a nutritionist. In this regard, settling for the DASH diet plan would be just what your dietician or health expert ordered.
In the DASH schedule, food items generally included are cereals, grain products, green vegetables, leafy veggies, fruits, fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, lean meats, poultry meats, low-fat dairy products, natural sweeteners, vegetable oils and fats, nuts, seeds, and dry beans.
Consult the table given here (8)
Almost everybody starting from a two-year old to a septuagenarian or a nonagenarian is leading highly stressful lives these days. Chronic or continual stress is taking a heavy toll on our lives and is responsible in a big way for heightening your blood pressure. Undue stress on your physical or mental wellbeing can cause your BP to increase anomalously. Excessive stress can lead you to drink more, indulge in binging or excite you to smoke more leading to increased anxiety levels.
Taking time out to reflect on the factors that is causing you to become anxious or stressful can actually go a long way in helping you to cope with stress. Note down on a piece of paper the possible factors that are leading to stress and try to introduce changes in your current lifestyle in a gradual manner. Discussing with your office colleagues, superior, and family on the steps you could take to deal with and reduce stress can also help.
Scientific studies and trials have overwhelmingly established that hypertensive patients can reduce their systolic/diastolic pressures by 6mm/8mm if they went for brisk walks. Running on the treadmill or doing strength exercises vigorously for about half an hour or walking at a fast pace for 30 minutes keeps the heart perfectly active letting it pump out blood more efficiently. Those suffering from HBP should keep aside at least 30-40 minutes for strenuous exercises or workout nothing less than 5 days in a week.
Potassium as a mineral is an excellent purifier helping to reduce the level of sodium in the bloodstream which in turn leads to a lessening of the blood pressure. Introduce natural foods in your diet that are a rich source of potassium including bananas, sugar beets, winter squash, low-fat yogurt, sweet potato, pumpkin, baked potato (with the skin on) and so on (9)
Practising yoga and/or meditating for 25-30 minutes every day will help you to stay calm and composed all through the day.
Inhaling and exhaling slowly with long, deep breaths goes a long way in preventing the nerves from getting stressed. If you’re able to control your stress, you’ll automatically be in a position to keep a better leash on your blood pressure (10).
Treat your taste buds to more chocolates, especially of the dark variety. Chocolates that are dark brown or blackish brown are loaded with flavanols-phytonutrient compounds that function as excellent antioxidants reducing free radical content in the body. Flavanols also help in vasodilation making the blood vessels more flexible thereby enabling the smooth flow of blood through arteries and veins (11)
Consider replacing your camellia sinensis teas with herbal teas. Teas distilled from the leaves and/or flowers of herbal plants like basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and mint contain phytochemicals that can remove toxins from blood more effectively keeping it pure and helping it to flow smoothly thereby arresting unwarranted blood pressure increase (12).
If you’re pushing the envelope a bit too hard at your workplace, then consider reducing your workload. Anything over 41 hours increases your risks of becoming hypertensive by at least 15%. Working beyond the normal office hours leaves you with little or no time for workouts and leisure activities. Working overtime also means you take your regular meals at odd hours (13).
Try to consume foods that contains negligible or no trans-fats or poly saturated fats. In other words, tone down your consumption of salted chips, peanut butter, processed dairy products, and all other foods that are rich in trans-fats or saturated fats (14).
Curb your desire to go for that packet of potato chips or salted nuts just before or after lunch. Also put just half a teaspoon of sugar in your coffee or teacup. Eat less and less processed dairy products, biscuits, muffins, and sauces and switch to eating more of fresh and/or natural foods including lean meats, fruits, and vegetables (15).
Reducing the consumption of red meats can prevent your blood pressure from going berserk. It has been proved through umpteen studies and researches that animal meat, especially the red meats (beef, mutton, and pork) can alleviate the medical conditions of arteriosclerosis and arteriostenosis in individuals aged 40+. Giving up red meats and taking to lean meats like chicken, fish and turkey can help keep blood pressure in check
Consuming fishes rich in omega-3 fatty acids including mackerel, tuna, herring, sardine, and lake trout decrease triglycerides, decelerate growth of plaque on arterial walls thereby keeping blood pressure low (16).
Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables freshly procured from the market will supply you with your daily requirement of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
Taking twin cloves of garlic or consuming freshly sliced onions with your meals helps in flushing out toxins and waste products from your system. This in turn keeps the blood free from impurities thus helping it to flow smoothly.
Deficiency of vitamin D in your body can also increase your HBP. Eat foods rich in vitamin D, go for morning walks more often, and consider vacationing in a coastal city or town nearer the tropics.
Last but not the least, sleeping soundly is indispensable for keeping your nerves calm and getting re-energized for the next working day. Sleeping at least 8 hours a day is essential to keep stress at bay.
Closing up it can be inferred that reducing your blood pressure is not an uphill task as you might be tempted to think. You’ll just to bring about some prescribed lifestyle changes, take your medications as recommended by the physician, and take life as it comes.