The What, Why and How to Prevent High Blood Pressure
It’s just like any other trip to the doctor you’ve made before. The cuff is wrapped tightly around your arm and the doctor deliberately squeezes that tiny balloon while the cuff swells up and your arm begins to feel numb. You watch as the doctor examines the tiny arrow slowly descending around the clock-shaped gauge that is somehow determining your blood pressure. It’s a familiar, somewhat comforting procedure that you can remember from even your earliest visits to the pediatrician.
Except this time it’s a little different. The doctor informs you that the results of this test aren’t pretty. You’re blood pressure is above the norm and you’ll have to take precautionary measures to prevent the impending hypertension heading your way. This is when you finally realize it’s your call to take action.
If this has happened to you, you’re not alone. In fact, you are one of 80 million adults in the United States currently living with elevated blood pressure. It’s a common condition that might not express symptoms immediately but can have detrimental health effects in the long run. Whether or not you have been clinically diagnosed with high blood pressure or hypertension, there are ways you can make lifestyle changes today that will improve your future.
The recommendation for healthy blood pressure is less than 120/80mmHg. Without getting into too much technical detail, this number is a combination of blood in your vessels while your heart is beating and while your heart is at rest. This number is a standard for most adults however, with a lack of proper nutrition and exercise this number is likely to increase to a level that can cause many health issues.
When blood pressure rises it means that there is physically more blood within your vessels which causes stretching of the tissue walls. The problem with this is that this stretching causes the vessels to become scarred and weak. Not to mention it can increase plaque aggregation on the damaged cell wall and increase the risk of a blood clot. The build-up of plaque reduces the amount of blood that reaches the heart and it puts a lot of stress on the heart to pump harder. It means it will have to pump harder to get oxygen to important tissues in your body.
As blood pressure rises it becomes more and more health sabotaging. At first it’s just prehypertension. Then its Stage 1 hypertension, followed by Stage two hypertension which is an astonishing 160/100 mmHg. More than that and you have a hypertensive crisis where emergency assistance is needed. It’s a slippery slope. You may not think that high blood pressure is a serious issue until you realize that your heart is responsible for all your other organs so it can affect your eyes, brain and kidneys dramatically.
Be kind to your body. Don’t leave your heart footing the bill of your lifestyle choices. And don’t leave your tissues gasping for oxygen! You only have one body – take care of it.
High Blood Pressure Diet Foods
One of the most important challenges you may face with high blood pressure is your diet. By consuming heart healthy foods you can delay the necessity of blood pressure medications in the future. You might soon discover that nutrition is your best medicine.
Skip the Salt and Boost the Potassium
Small changes that you can make are simple. Start by paying attention to how much processed food you eat. These foods are often loaded with sodium which contributes to the pressure in your blood. Even a small reduction in sodium consumption can make a difference. On the other hand, incorporating more potassium rich foods, like bananas, can counteract some of the effects of sodium and mitigate some of the pressure.
Whole Grains for Your Veins
Start by adding more whole grains into your diet. Why? Whole grains contain more vitamins like fiber, magnesium, iron, selenium and folate compared to refined grains. These vitamins not only counteract the effects of sodium but they also repair some of the damaged tissues within vessels. Some whole grain food choices include brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal and millet.
Omega-3’s For Your Arteries
Start by adding salmon as a protein to your meals 2-3 times a week. Foods like salmon and other fatty fish such as mackerel, tuna and sardines are packed with omega-3 fatty acids and have been shown to positively affect blood pressure.
Search for the Stamp
With so many misleading marketing messages out there, it’s hard to grasp what’s really good for you. The American Heart Association has provided consumers with an easy solution to your grocery shopping dilemma. Look for the heart-check mark stamp on the packaging label. This stamp of approval means that a food item meets the American Heart Association’s standards for sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol, identifying it as an overall heart healthy food.
Even a single day of proper nutrition and exercise can reduce your risk of high blood pressure, hypertension and other comorbidities. Consider keeping a food diary for your own track record and keep your eyes peeled for healthier meal options when out to eat. Don’t wait until the doctor informs you of bad news. Don’t wind up like the 80 million other Americans that are suffering from this disease. Take proactive measures to make a difference and live a long, healthy and happy life!
To read more from Bonnie Giller visit her Expert Profile