Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a condition with no symptoms that is nonetheless very easy to diagnose. People who are diagnosed with a mild form of hypertension might or might not receive a drug prescription, but will surely be advised to make lifestyle changes. In fact, changing one’s living habits is recommended regardless of how severe their blood pressure is.
Considered one of the major factors leading to elevated blood pressure, obesity can also cause a number of other health problems. By working to lose a few pounds, people can improve their health condition considerably.
Medical studies have shown a direct correlation between obesity and elevated blood pressure. Increased weight has also been linked with sleep apnea, further increasing the odds of hypertension, as the condition manifests itself through breath interruptions while you are asleep.
On a general note, every two pounds lost can reduce your blood pressure by about 1 mm Hg. The waistline is also an indicator of your blood pressure. Men who have a waistline greater than 40 inches are more exposed to hypertension; just as women with a waistline over 35 inches are more exposed. For more precise numbers (which can vary from one ethnicity to another), it’s best to consult with your doctor.
A sedentary lifestyle causes a lot of potential health threats, high blood pressure being just one of them. If you exercise a mere 20 to 30 minutes every day, you can witness a blood pressure drop of about 5 to 8 mm Hg. Keep in mind that consistency is key, and interrupting your exercises a couple of days in a row can increase your blood pressure again if you suffer from hypertension.
Patients with a slightly elevated blood pressure can avoid hypertension by exercising as well. Your physical routine can include anything from jogging, swimming, or aerobics to fitness exercises, even cycling. If you are unable to perform any of these, try walking for an hour each day.
Different forms of training can also lower your blood pressure if you suffer from hypertension, but you have to talk to your doctor to make sure that you don’t have any medical problems (such as heat conditions), in which case exercising could make you feel worse.
3. Alcohol and smoking
These vices are extremely dangerous even if you don't have hypertension. From a high blood pressure point of view, limiting alcohol and quitting smoking eliminates two major factors that increase blood pressure.
Moderate alcohol is allowed, provided that women stick to one drink and men to a maximum of two drinks every day. One drink is the equivalent of five ounces of wine, 12 of beer, and a maximum of 1.5 ounces of liquor. Keep in mind that larger quantities of alcohol don’t just raise blood pressure; they can also make blood pressure meds less efficient.
Smoking a single cigarette can elevate your blood pressure for a considerable number of minutes, even after having finished it. Aside from that, smoking also affects the heart and lung function, so quitting smoking is a good idea regardless of whether you have hypertension.
And speaking of vices, if you consume any illegal drugs, know that these can affect your blood pressure as well. The most dangerous type of drugs which can raise your blood pressure are stimulants (or “speed” drugs, as they are sometimes called), such as cocaine or amphetamine.
While the role that coffee plays in elevating blood pressure is still being studied, it’s important to think about caffeine as a stimulant, and just like most stimulants, it can make your heart beat faster than normal, causing blood pressure to rise.
However, caffeine is not all that dangerous for people who consume it every day. On the other hand, people who don’t usually drink coffee will experience a blood pressure rise of up to 10 mm Hg, while those who enjoy a cup of coffee every day will witness little to no effects.
If you are not certain on the effect that caffeine has on you, measure your blood pressure about half an hour after having consumed coffee or some other caffeine-based beverage. If you notice a blood pressure rise of at least 5 mm Hg, then your blood pressure may be sensitive to caffeine intake.
5. Dietary changes
Adopting a healthy lifestyle will almost always translate into “be careful what you eat”. When opting for healthier diets as part of hypertension treatment, consider the following:
- Eliminating salt/sodium as much as possible from your diet is a very important step towards reducing hypertension.
- Processed and fast foods are very rich in sodium, so they should also be avoided. Also make sure that you carefully read the labels of the products you buy, just to make sure that you are not consuming anything with too much sodium.
- Potassium can counteract the effects of a high level of sodium inside your organism, so you should considering eating foods that are rich in potassium. Fruits and vegetables are a great way to stay in shape, lose some weight, as well as boost your potassium levels.
- If you keep a food diary and then go through it at the end of the week, you’d be surprised at how many dietary bad habits you have, and could change. Start small, by replacing a sweet snack with an apple or a banana.
6. Stress and anxiety
High levels of stress, nervousness, and anxiety, can also lead to hypertension development. Stress can also have an indirect impact on your high blood pressure, especially if you tend to eat more when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
There is a whole list of things that you can do to combat the negative effects of stress on your blood pressure, but sometimes, seeing a therapist is the best thing you can do for your mental health. Seeing a specialist is highly underrated, and sessions can be quite enjoyable once you discover so many interesting things about yourself.