A condition that plagues approximately 70 million Americans, hypertension is a state that while dangerous, can certainly be prevented and managed. With the sedentary and decadent lifestyles that are so prevalent in everyday society nowadays, it is little wonder that high blood pressure is so very common. Just like many of us, our heart is out of shape, and has to work extra hard to pump that blood, resulting in high blood pressure. The good news is, we can certainly manage the condition, and we can even lower our blood pressure back to health.
What is hypertension?
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a prevalent condition in today’s society. Blood pressure in the body is measured by way of two measurements; systolic (when the heart muscle contracts), and diastolic (when the heart muscle releases/is relaxed). Blood pressure if therefore measured as your highest and lowest blood pressures, respectively. Normal or healthy blood pressure is in the 100-140 mmHg systolic or top reading, and 60-90 mmHg diastolic or lower reading. Therefore, a blood pressure of higher than 140/90 mmHg is considered to be hypertension.
The effects of high blood pressure on the body are numerous; compromised heart health including heart attack, stroke, with even the possibility of heart failure, damaged organs, aneurysm, and more. The World Health Organization has identified high blood pressure as the leading cause of cardiovascular mortality. Symptoms of hypertension include headaches, fainting, fatigue, difficulty breathing, chest pains, and irregular heartbeat. However, many people with hypertension feel no symptoms whatsoever – all the more reason to get your blood pressure checked out by your healthcare professional.
What causes hypertension?
Hypertension can be classified into two groups: primary hypertension, meaning there is no obvious underlying root cause to the high blood pressure, and secondary hypertension, meaning the high blood pressure is caused by another condition affecting the heart, endocrine system, etc., such as obesity, hypo or hyperthyroidism, pregnancy, kidney disease, etc.
The causes of hypertension are inconclusive but are thought to include certain conditions and lifestyle choices, including:
- kidney disease
- hormonal imbalance
- sedentary lifestyle/lack of physical activity
- insufficient vitamin D, lack of magnesium, potassium, and calcium
- high levels of salt/sodium intake, high levels of alcohol consumption
- genetic predisposition
- certain medication, for example, birth control pills
Although seriously harmful to our health, the good news is, high blood pressure is absolutely manageable, preventable, and even reversible.
Prevention and Management
Although medical intervention through medication can help with managing high blood pressure, adopting a healthy lifestyle is imperative to the prevention and management of hypertension. Practicing healthy life choices can even prove so effective in combating high blood pressure, that often medication can be avoided. According to the American Heart Association, there are a few main ways to prevent high blood pressure:
- Enjoy regular physical activity – With a desk job and busy life schedules that finish off the day in front of the couch, it is easy for inactivity to become a way of life. Engaging in exercise can not only help with blood pressure, but can help us lose weight and reduce stress – both key ways to reduce blood pressure in and of themselves. Exercise means aerobic activity that gets the heart pumping! But any physical activity is a good thing.
- Enjoy a healthy diet, low in salt and alcohol – Enjoy a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, high in fibre and lean protein. In the place of salt/sodium, opt for low or no salt alternatives; such as Spike no salt seasoning, or nutritional yeast (both available at health food stores). Consume little alcohol, if at all, and find alternatives, like all natural sparkling fruit juices, or herbal teas.
- Maintain a healthy weight – Those who are overweight are considerably more at risk for developing or having high blood pressure. A benefit to so many aspects of our health, even just a little weight loss can help our blood pressure health.
- Don’t smoke – need we say more? These days, it is undisputed that the harsh chemicals and additives present in cigarettes are unhealthy for all aspects of health, including blood pressure.
- Manage stress – We’ve all felt our blood pressure go ‘through the roof’ in those stressful moments. Managing stressors is imperative to so many aspects of health, and only you know what truly relaxes you. Meditate, go to a yoga class, treat yourself to a massage, spend some time in the backyard gardening, even engaging in regular deep breathing – whatever works for you.
For most people, implementing these regular lifestyle changes can be challenging. But starting small, with just one or two changes until they become a regular part of the routine can help your overall health, including your blood pressure, immensely. Moreover, thinking of this as a ‘lifestyle prescription’ may help you avoid the doctor’s prescriptions!
Unlike so many health conditions, hypertension is highly controllable by making these lifestyle changes to help prevent or manage hypertension. So get moving, enjoy your fruits and veggies, and destress… your heart health and blood pressure depend on it![fbcomments]