A condition that plagues approximately 70 million Americans, hypertension is dangerous but can be prevented and managed. With the sedentary lifestyles that are so prevalent in everyday society, it is little wonder that high blood pressure is increasingly common. When the heart is unfit, it has to work overtime, resulting in high blood pressure. The good news is we can manage the condition and can even lower blood pressure back to a healthy state.
What is hypertension?
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a widespread condition in today’s society. Blood pressure is represented by two measurements. The first is systolic and is measured when the heart contracts. The second is diastolic, which is measured when the heart releases/relaxes.
A healthy range for systolic blood pressure is between 100-140 mmHg and 60-90 mmHg for diastolic. A blood pressure reading higher than 140/90 mmHg is considered to be hypertension.
The long term effects of high blood pressure are numerous. Issues like heart attack, stroke, heart failure, damaged organs, and aneurysm are some examples. 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?
Firstly, hypertension can be broken into two groups. When there is no obvious underlying cause, this is considered primary hypertension. Secondary hypertension is when high blood pressure is caused by another condition.
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
While seriously harmful to our health, the good news is high blood pressure is manageable, preventable, and even reversible.
Hypertension Prevention and Management
Although medication can help with managing high blood pressure, adopting healthy habits is imperative to the prevention and management of hypertension. Practicing healthy life choices can 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:
Engage in regular physical activity
It’s easy for inactivity to become a way of life when desk jobs and busy life schedules take over. Engaging in exercise not only helps with blood pressure but also helps reduce stress and promotes weight loss. Aim to include aerobic activities that get the heart pumping! But any physical activity is a good thing.
Enjoy a healthy diet, low in salt and alcohol
Stick to a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, high in fiber 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. Consume little alcohol 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 to develop or have high blood pressure. A benefit to so many aspects of our well-being, even just a little weight loss can help our blood pressure health.
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.
We’ve all felt our blood pressure go up during 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 can improve your overall health, including your blood pressure. Moreover, think of these tactics as ‘lifestyle prescriptions’ to help avoid the doctor’s prescriptions.
Unlike so many health conditions, hypertension is very manageable and preventable by making these choices. So get moving, enjoy your fruits and veggies, and destress.
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