As of 2013, approximately 30% of the Indian population suffered from hypertension, or high blood pressure, according to Journal of Hypertension! This number has only seen a steady rise since due to the fast-paced, stress-filled, unhealthy diet-no exercise prone lifestyle quite a few of us are guilty of following.
Why should you take note?
You have hypertension if your arterial blood pressure is constantly high over an extended period of time (130/90 or 140/90 over the normal of 120/80). However, high blood pressure itself shows no significant physical symptoms, which means you could be walking around with it without ever having realized it.
Moreover, high blood pressure can lead to much more severe and potentially fatal conditions like stroke, heart attack, internal hemorrhage, chronic kidney conditions, Diabetes and organ failure, so it is as always better to be safe than sorry.
There are various medications prescribed in chronic cases, but they may cause certain side effects like coughing, abnormal bowel movements, lethargy, nausea, and even (gasp!) erectile dysfunction. Good news? Hypertension can be prevented as well as reversed even without any medication if you keep in mind the risk factors and follow certain lifestyle changes. This article gives you 6 ways by which you can take appropriate action to keep your blood pressure in check to lead a long, normal, and healthy life.
1) Lose those Extra kilos:
High blood pressure and increased weight always go together. Losing only 10 pounds (about 4.5kg) can help to reduce your blood pressure significantly, according to Mayo Clinic. Try to target an average Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9. Also keep an eye on your waistline. A large waistline is caused by fat deposition near vital organs in your abdomen, putting stress on their blood supply and the overall blood pressure. So lose those extra kilos and aim to keep your waistline below 40 inches for men and below 35 inches for women to keep your blood pressure normal.
2) Exercise Regularly:
Regular physical activity for about 30 minutes daily has been show to significantly reduce your risk of developing hypertension as well to bring elevated pressure levels down to normal. Walking, jogging, swimming, cycling are just some exercises with a great impact. Strength training also helps. Consult your doctor to develop an exercise regime to help you lose weight as well as keep blood pressure low without any risk.
3) DASH to Diet:
A healthy diet is specifically recommended to reduce your blood pressure by about 14mm Hg, and the plan is called DASH (Dietary approaches to Stop Hypertension). To follow DASH,
- Include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits in your diet.
- Consume low fat dairy items, nuts, fish, and lean meat.
- Remove food containing saturated fat and cholesterols like fatty red meat, high fat dairy, and all processed and packaged food from your diet.
4) Sprinkle less Salt:
Dietary sodium coming from salt is possibly the single biggest culprit causing high blood pressure. Sodium makes your body retain fluids, thereby causing a drastic increase in blood pressure. One average teaspoonful of salt contains approximately 2,300mg of sodium in it. Aim to keep your sodium intake within 1,000 to 1,500mg a day. Shop smart and read packaging labels of food you buy to know their salt content. Avoid processed food as natural food contains little sodium, most of it is added during the process. Sprinkle less salt while cooking. Potassium counters the effects of sodium slightly, consume fruits which are rich in potassium (Bananas, Papayas, mangoes, oranges, etc) to avail that benefit.
5) Get rid of Addictions:
Smoking causes your blood pressure to rise and stay elevated for several minutes even after that last puff. If you are a chain smoker, your blood pressure levels are likely to stay abnormally high for a long time. Secondhand passive smoke also elevates blood pressure of those inhaling it. Kick the butt ASAP to save yourself from hypertension among a range of other severe health problems. A glass of red wine improves your heart rate, but drinking alcohol in excessive amount also greatly increases blood pressure. It is advisable to quit drinking. If at all you do drink, limit yourself to one drink per day (1 drink=12oz beer, 5oz wine, or 1.5oz, or 40% liquor). If you love your morning coffee, remember that caffeine also slightly increases blood pressure by increasing heart rate, so don’t get addicted to the cuppa.
6) De-stress to Reduce Distress:
In the fast-paced world of today, stress has become our constant companion, and that contributes significantly to increased blood pressure statistics worldwide. Your body reflexively deals with stress by increasing your heart rate so that your brain receives more oxygen and nutrients, thereby also increasing your blood pressure. Try to identify what triggers your stress, job, relationship, environment, etc. and take suitable action to address it, once and for all. Running away or trying to evade it is not a permanent solution.
You can meditate for 15 minutes daily, or try the ancient Indian technique of Yoga to de-stress, which has added benefits of making you sweat to help you lose a few kilos.
Having a hobby or doing something that you really enjoy also helps relieve stress from day to day activities. For a quick fix, breathe slowly and deeply counting to ten for ten times when you feel yourself under pressure. Chronic stress might also indicate an imbalance in your mental health and it is advisable to consult a psychiatrist if you cannot cope no matter how hard you try.
Genetics do play a role in determining risk of hypertension, so if you have blood relatives prone to hypertension, you may also suffer from it. If you have been diagnosed with diseases like diabetes, kidney disorders, COPD, you need to keep a frequent check on your blood pressure levels as well. In any case, it is advisable to go for a regular checkup every four to six months or so to determine if you have hypertension or any tendency to develop it. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, keep yourself free of stress, and find a supportive group of friends, family or other support groups, and you can effectively keep your blood pressure in check and lead a long and healthy life without resorting to medications for hypertension.
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