High blood pressure, or hypertension, is called “The Silent Killer”. Statistics show that roughly a third of Americans have high blood pressure (and a lot of them don’t even know it). High blood pressure is a common condition in which the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems. Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.
A diagnosis of hypertension can be scary, but fortunately, there are ways to combat it! Losing weight by eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising are crucial first steps in improving your heart health. Losing even 10 pounds can have a positive impact on blood pressure!
WHAT IS CONSIDERED HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?
Guidelines say that normal blood pressure is a systolic number (the top number) of 120 or below and a diastolic number (the bottom number) of 80 or below.
High blood pressure is considered a systolic number of 140 or higher, and a diastolic number of 90 or higher.
Prehypertension is described as a blood pressure that falls in between the normal and high values, indicating to medical providers to keep a close eye on it.
- Age- 55 or older for men; 65 or older for women.
- Family History
- Being overweight or obese- The more you weigh, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls.
- Tobacco use
- Physical inactivity
- Too much sodium in your diet
- Not enough potassium in your diet
- Too much alcohol
- Heart attack or stroke
- Heart failure
- Weakening and narrowing of blood vessels in kidneys
- Thickening, narrowing, or tearing of blood vessels in eyes, resulting in vision loss.
- Metabolic syndrome
PREVENTION AND CONTROL
There are some risk factors that are out of your control, like age and family history, but luckily there are some lifestyle changes that you can make to prevent or control high blood pressure:
- Blood pressure rises with body weight, so losing weight is one of the best ways to improve your numbers. According to the national guidelines and recent research, losing weight can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure — and potentially eliminate high blood pressure. For every 20 pounds you lose, you can drop systolic pressure 5-20 points. People who are considered prehypertensive can benefit significantly by dropping 20 pounds.
- Follow the guidelines of the National Institutes of Health’s DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Eating a lower-fat diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy foods can lower your systolic numbers 8-14 points. A typical DASH eating plan includes:
- 4-5 vegetable servings per day
- 4-5 fruit servings per day (choose fruits and vegetables that are rich sources of potassium such as bananas, tomatoes, avocados, dates, tomatoes, raisins, cantaloupe, and oranges)
- 7-8 daily servings of grains, preferably whole grains
- 2-3 daily servings low-fat or fat-free dairy
- 2 or fewer daily servings of lean meat, poultry, or seafood
- 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, and beans per week
- 2-3 daily servings of fats and oils
- 5 servings of sweets and snacks per week
- Get moving! At least 30 minutes each day of brisk walking or a similar aerobic activity could trim 4-9 points off your systolic pressure.
- Monitor your sodium intake. Typical adult diets average 4,000 mg of sodium daily. You can reduce this to the recommended level of 1,500-2,300 mg by:
- Making healthier food selections. Foods in their natural state contain much less sodium than those that have been processed. Sodium is used to help extend shelf life, so fresh ingredients are less likely to be high in sodium. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where most fresh foods can be found.
- Keeping processed foods to a minimum. Sodium hides in instant foods, soups, lunchmeats, canned vegetables, processed meats (bacon, sausages, ham, canned meats and fish), frozen dinners, ethnic foods, crackers, etc.
- Salting your food lightly at the table, not during cooking where the taste is lost. A pinch, dash, or pre-measured packet of salt is roughly 200 mg of sodium.
- Reading food labels and choosing lower-sodium brands.
- Spicing up foods with fresh and dried herbs and salt-free seasonings and spices.
- If you drink alcohol, limit it to one to two drinks per day for a reduction of 2-4 systolic points.
While hearing the word “hypertension” can trigger worry, fear not! Losing weight alone (or with other simple lifestyle changes) can help you lower your blood pressure, and increase your overall health. Work with your healthcare provider to create a plan that will help you along your way to optimal heart health. THMD can help support you on your journey, and we are committed to you being your healthiest self!