High Blood Pressure, A Quick Guide
Blood pressure is most commonly understood as a measurement of two numbers which represent systolic and diastolic pressures of the heart and cardiovascular system as the heart contracts to supply blood to the lungs and the rest of the body (systolic pressure) as well as the pressure when the heart relaxes (diastolic pressure).
- Systolic blood pressure, the top number, measures the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries each time it beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number, measures the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries in between beats.
- Hypertension is by definition a blood pressure that is elevated by either an increase of systolic or diastolic pressure.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the most common primary diagnosis in the United States and it is one of the most common worldwide diseases. It also is a huge risk factor for stroke, myocardial infarction, vascular disease, and chronic kidney disease.
Risk Factors for hypertension include poor diet, tobacco usage/smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity levels, psychosocial factors, history of depression, family history of hypertension, genetic disposition, and diabetes just to name a few.
Symptoms and signs of hypertension include:
- Chest pain, shortness of breath
- Palpitations (racing or pounding heart beat)
- Claudication (cramping pain that causes limping)
- Swelling in the legs, feet or ankles
- Blurred vision
- Waking up in the middle of night to urinate
- Blood in urine
What are the things we can control in aiming to manage or prevent hypertension? As we can see from the risk factors listed above, we actually have the ability to control a lot of different lifestyle modifications that are aimed at managing and preventing of hypertension.
Do we have our body weight under control? Can we say that we are at a healthy body weight; whether it be overweight or underweight. If we are considered over weight, studies have shown weight loss to have an effect of approximately lowering BP by 5-20 mg Hg for every 10kg/22 pounds lost.
What are we putting on the plate? Increase eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, polyunsaturated fats and dairy products. Reduce food high in sugar, saturated fats and trans fats, even those these are some of our favorite foods. Increase your intake of vegetables that are high in nitrates which is known to reduce BP, such as leafy vegetables and beetroot. A great diet guideline to follow in this case would be the DASH diet.
Limit our alcohol consumption. How often and how much do we consume alcohol? Association exists between alcohol, blood pressure, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease risk. The recommended daily limit for alcohol consumptions is 2 standard drinks for men and 1.5 for women (10 g alcohol/standard drink). Avoid binge drinking even if you’re having a bad day. There are also many great non-alcoholic options that are out there as well.
Limit tobacco use. Smoking is a major risk factor for CVD, COPD and cancer. Smoking cessation and referral to smoking cessation programs are advised.
Limit our caffeine consumption. Moderate consumption of coffee. Green tea is a great replacement for coffee and is full of antioxidants. Other beverages that can be beneficial include hibiscus tea, pomegranate juice, beetroot juice and cocoa.
Limit sodium intake. There is strong evidence for a relationship between high salt intake and increased blood pressure. Reduce the amount of salt added when preparing foods, and at the table. Avoid or limit consumption of high salt foods such as soy sauce, fast foods and processed food including breads and cereals.
Do you move, and move well? We should be engaging in physical activity/ movement 30 min each day. Studies suggest that regular aerobic and resistance exercise may be beneficial for both the prevention and treatment of hypertension. Moderate intensity aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, cycling, yoga, or swimming) for 30 minutes on 5–7 days per week or HIIT (high intensity interval training) which involves alternating short bursts of intense activity with recovery periods of lighter activity. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Performance of resistance/ strength exercises should be targeted to at least 2–3 days per week.
Are we getting enough potassium, calcium, magnesium in our diets? Many Americans do not get the adequate amounts needed in their diet due to the agriculture system, and supplementation may be needed. Beneficial foods with these nutrients include avocados, nuts, seeds, legumes and tofu, so try to incorporate these into your meals if possible. Ask about our supplements at your next Lakeside visit!
How is our mental health? Chronic stress and mental health has been associated with high blood pressure. Some studies on meditation/mindfulness suggest that they help lower blood pressure. Stress should be reduced and mindfulness or meditation introduced into the daily routine. Finding help with a trusted counselor or energy healer is also a great way to work on this area of your life.
What to take from this post:
- High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the most common primary diagnosis in the United States and it is one of the most common worldwide diseases.
- Risk Factors for hypertension include our diet, tobacco usage/smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity levels, psychosocial factors, history of depression, family history of hypertension, genetic disposition, and diabetes.
- We have the ability to control a lot of different lifestyle modifications that are aimed at managing and preventing of hypertension.