It’s natural to experience short-term spikes in blood pressure, for example, during a workout. However, if your heart is constantly pumping more blood than usual, your blood pressure may stay high and eventually lead to hypertension. Millions of people have it, but many don’t even know that their blood pressure is high. That’s because this condition has no symptoms, and the only way to find out is to get regular blood pressure checks. The recommended blood pressure is 120/80mmHg with high blood pressure starting at 130/80mmHg. If the upper limit of your BP starts to read more than 180, it means the condition is getting really dangerous, increasing the chances of an immediate heart attack, stroke, or heart failure.
Anyone is susceptible to high blood pressure, but certain factors can increase one’s risk, including age, lifestyle, family history, and gender, to name a few. While hypertension cannot be cured, there are several ways to manage it and enhance your quality of life. These include:
Through Proper Diet
Research has found that the foods we eat can either lower or increase our blood pressure. And, if you’ve already been diagnosed with hypertension, it’s important to pay attention to what you consume.
The biggest culprit for increasing blood pressure is sodium; therefore, the less you consume, the better it is for your blood pressure. Health professionals recommend keeping your sodium intake under 1,500 milligrams a day if you have hypertension. Keep in mind that a level teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium. It’s important to note that a huge amount of sodium in foods is added during processing. This means you should eat fewer, or avoid processed foods altogether. Be sure to check your food labels to ensure they have less sodium and, if possible, go for low-sodium alternatives.
Other things to avoid include caffeine, alcohol, and refined carbohydrates (especially sugar) as they can cause a short-term spike in blood pressure.
Potassium, calcium, fiber, and magnesium, on the other hand, can help control BP. Potassium lessens the effects of salt in your body and also eases tension in blood vessels. However, it can be harmful to people with kidney disease, so talk to your doctor before taking more potassium-rich foods.
The best foods to eat to help manage hypertension include fruits, leafy green vegetables, lean meat, poultry, whole grains, nuts, fish, seeds, dark chocolate, garlic and herbs, pistachios, fermented foods like natural yogurt, legumes, and low-fat dairy products, to name a few.
Eating right goes hand-in-hand with regular physical activity. Exercise increases your heart and breathing rates, which, over time, makes your heart stronger and more efficient at pumping blood. In turn, this puts less pressure on your arteries, thus lowering blood pressure to safer levels. Health professionals recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. Exercise doesn’t just mean going to the gym as anything that gets your heart rate up and forces you to use more oxygen than usual is best for your heart. This includes swimming, brisk walking, gardening, dancing, playing a sport, riding a bike, and even doing household chores. What’s important is consistency because if you stop, your BP will rise again.
Lifestyle changes may not be enough to keep BP under control for some people, especially if they have other risk factors. The good news is there are several types of drugs that one can use to help lower blood pressure. And they work in various ways, as shown below:
It’s essential to take the drugs as directed by the doctor, meaning no skipping days, cutting doses, or overdosing.
Controlling your blood pressure with the above methods will ultimately help lower it and reduce your risk of heart disease. Most importantly, remember to include your doctor in the process as recommendations regarding diet, exercise, and medication varies from one person to another.