Blood pressure is the force exerted on the blood vessel walls by the flowing blood. High blood pressure or hypertension for a prolonged period can lead to various health problems and is responsible for 7.5 million deaths worldwide. Blood pressure is measured in ‘millimetres of mercury’ (mmHg) and it is calculated on two levels- systolic blood pressure (the highest level of an individual’s blood pressure during heart beats) and diastolic blood pressure (the lowest level of an individual’s blood pressure when the heart is relaxed between beats).
Reasons for High Blood Pressure
There are numerous external factors that lead to high blood pressure. Some of the reasons are listed as follows:
- Obesity and increased body weight
- Lack of physical activity
- Progressing Age
- Excessive Stress
- Smoking and Alcohol Consumption
- Sleep Apnea
- Certain Drugs and Supplements
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Over-dependence on Processed and Ready to Eat Foods
Simple and Useful Tips to Control High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can pose considerable harm to health by damaging the heart and leading to heart failure, kidney failure and brain damage.
Reduce the Waistline
Research shows that a large waistline acts as a first sign of increased blood pressure and coronary heart diseases. Doctors put special emphasis on losing belly fat because carrying too much weight around the mid-section of the body can put you under greater risk of blood pressure and other heart diseases. Waist measurements of more than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women are at high risk of developing high blood pressure. The ideal body mass index (BMI) should be maintained between 18.5 and 22.9 for controlling hypertension.
Introduce Dietary Changes
A healthy and well-balanced diet rich in all kinds of proteins and nutrients helps in reducing the risk of high blood pressure and helps in controlling it at a safe level. Have a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy and cut back of fats, sugar and cholesterol. Have whole wheat breads, whole wheat pasta, whole grain cereals and brown rice to load on fibers that helps in lowering cholesterol and keeps you satiated for longer. Add the daily dose of calcium to your diet with low-fat dairy in the form of yogurt, buttermilk and non-fat cheese. Opt for 1 serving of lean meat, chicken or fish per day to get the proteins and magnesium.
Cut Back on Sodium
Sodium plays a very important role in maintaining water balance in the body, but excessive sodium also causes water retention and increases the water level both inside cells and in the blood vessels, which leads to increase in blood pressure. This puts pressure on the blood vessel walls that makes them narrow. Thus, the heart has to work harder to pump blood through these narrowed blood vessels which in turn damages the heart and the blood vessels. Therefore, it is suggested to limit sodium intake within 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams per day and choose low sodium foods. Keep away processed, pickles and cured foods from the diet because they tend to be high in sodium.
Moderately intense physical activity for 30 to 60 minutes a day for at least 4 to 5 days a week helps in lowering blood pressure by almost 4 to 9 mm Hg. Regular physical activity also reduce the chances of developing hypertension among individuals suffering from prehypertension. Exercise helps the heart to utilize oxygen more efficiently so that it doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood through the vessels. Consult your physician and plan out an exercise regime. Start off with 30 minutes of brisk walking and increase the intensity gradually, and you will be able to notice the difference within a few days.
Stress and tension is a part of life, and there is no way to avoid it. But excessive stress at work or even in personal life can lead to various emotional and physical problems such as heart diseases, chest pains and increased blood pressure. It is important to handle stress and cope up with it in an effective manner to improve your general wellness. Don’t overdo it at work and try to leave at proper time so that you can have time to relax, unwind yourself, hit the gym and cook a healthy meal for yourself and your family. Calm your thoughts and senses, sort out and come to terms with whatever it is that is troubling you.
Go Easy on Alcohol
Excessive indulgence in alcohol creates various deficiencies in the body. Although research shows that drinking small amount of alcohol (1 serving) on a daily basis can help in reducing blood pressure, but too much consumption of alcohol not only increases blood pressure but also reduces the effectiveness of medication. If you are a heavy drinker, try to bring down your consumption gradually and do not have more than four drinks in a row even if you are at a party.
Say No to Smoking
Tobacco in any form is extremely harmful to health. Smoking not only causes breathing problems and lung cancer, the nicotine present in tobacco also causes heart diseases, increases blood pressure and heart rate and lowers oxygen supply to the heart. It also damages the linings of the blood vessels and arteries and increases blood clotting that can lead to stroke and heart attack. Try to cut down smoking gradually by making serious conscious efforts and also avoid second-hand smoke.
Increase Potassium Intake
Our kidney plays an important role in controlling blood pressure by filtering out excess fluid from the blood and storing it in the bladder as urine. But this process can be carried out only when a perfect balance is maintained between sodium and potassium levels. But at times, this balance is disrupted due to the presence of excessive sodium in the bloodstream. Increasing the intake of potassium through consumption of fruits and vegetables helps in restoring this balance that helps in proper functioning of the kidney and maintenance of blood pressure at healthy levels.
The benefits of green tea for health are numerous and drinking 2-3 cups of green tea on a daily basis has also been shown to lower high blood pressure. The powerful antioxidant catechin – epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) present in green tea helps in lowering both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. In addition, it also reduces the levels of blood cholesterol and prevents the inflammation of the blood vessels and arteries that also helps in improving overall cardiac health.
Last but not the least, relaxing and unwinding yourself by listening to some soothing music, meditating, doing yoga and breathing exercises also helps in controlling high blood pressure. Research shows that listening to soft music for at least 30 minutes on a daily basis while relaxing lowers the systolic pressure by 3.2 points within just 30 days.
Bring about these simple lifestyle changes that will go a long way in improving and maintaining your overall health in the long run