By Ale Rossi
A health survey which was recently conducted showed that 1 billion people globally have high blood pressure, and in the United States alone there are more than 77 million adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Just knowing that high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke is enough to make your heart beat just a little faster than it should whether you actually have high blood pressure or not. I’m sure we all know someone, a close friend or family member, who has high blood pressure and we have experienced their anxiety regarding the matter and how it leaks into other areas of their life. Following I will share with you some ways that you can manage your blood pressure, or help someone else manage theirs, without the help of medication, doctors, and stress. Life is meant to be enjoyed, so don’t let the burden of high blood pressure take that away from you. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle in every facet of life will help you to successfully control your blood pressure better than any medication ever could.
Step one: Lose weight. Why? Blood pressure increases as weight increases, so watch your weight and your waistline. The more weight you lose, the lower your blood pressure will be. Consult your doctor about what your ideal Body Mass Index (BMI) should be. BMI is the measure of body fat that compares your height to your weight and gives you the indication of whether you are overweight, underweight, or have healthy weight for your height. It applies to both men and women and is the best way of discerning where you are, weight wise, and where you need to be. Aside from just losing weight in general, working towards a slimmer waistline will also help you to control your blood pressure. People who carry too much weight around their waist are at a greater risk of high blood pressure. Ideally, men are at risk if the measurement of their waist is greater than 40 inches and women are at risk if the measurement of their waist is greater than 35 inches. It varies slightly for Asian men and women, with the waist measurement of greater than 36 inches for men, and the waist measurement of greater than 32 inches for women.
Step two: Have regular physical activity. Why? A minimum of 30 to 60 minutes of exercise every day can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 mm of mercury (mm Hg). If you have prehypertension, regular physical activity will help to bring down your blood pressure and avoid complete hypertension, and if you already have hypertension than regular exercise will bring your blood pressure back down to safer levels. The best part about regular physical activity is that it doesn’t have to mean one solid hour where you expend all your energies at the gym. Try brisk walking early in the morning, take a jog in the evenings, ride a bicycle to work instead of taking the car, take dance lessons if you’re fond of dancing, go swimming, or join an aerobics class. Find what works for you, something that you enjoy and that you know you will be able to make time for. If you have a blood pressure monitor handy, you will find that increasing your level of exercise will help to lower your blood pressure in just a couple weeks. However, span out your exercise time during the week and don’t try to cram it all into your weekend. Sudden bursts of expended energy may be a hazard to your heart.
Step three: Eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lowfat dairy products. Why? Eating a diet that is rich in the things that count will help to lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg. While it’s not easy to alter eating habits which you may have had for years, it’s not impossible either. Make a food diary and write down all the foods that you eat. This is best way of understanding what your true food habits are, and which of them need to be changed. Be a thrifty buyer when you visit the grocery store and only buy what you know is good for you. Avoid picking up sugar, oil, and carbon inflated foods and drinks. While it’s okay to cut yourself some slack some of the time, remember that special occasions don’t come everyday. It might be helpful to not keep any “special occasion foods” in your pantry for a while if you are seriously trying to lose weight, because they are too close within arms reach if you give in to your cravings. Once in awhile when you want to treat yourself you can make a quick trip to the store where your favourite foods are always waiting for you.
Step four: Eat foods that are potassium rich like fruits and vegetables, instead of downing supplements. A recent study in the UK showed that beetroot juice helps to reduce blood pressure more than any other food. 8 women and 7 men, who had high blood pressure between 140 to 159 mm Hg, drank about 250 mL of beetroot juice, and experienced a decrease of about 10 mm Hg in their blood pressure over the next 24 hours. Beetroot juice is fast becoming “the” healing food for those who have high blood pressure because it contains about 0.2g of dietary nitrate which is then converted into nitrite then to nitric oxide in the blood, where the nitric oxide gas widens the blood vessels and aids the blood flow.