How to Prevent Hypertension

How to Prevent Hypertension

  1. Know your number - For a proper understanding of blood pressure, you must know where you stand. Two numbers are used to describe blood pressure - the systolic pressure (the upper figure) measures the force that blood exerts on the artery walls as the heart contracts to pump out blood. The diastolic pressure (the lower figure) is the measurement of force as the heart relaxes to allow blood to flow into the heart. Normal blood pressure is less than 120mm of Hg systolic and less than 80mm of Hg diastolic. High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the pressure remains high over time. You need to have your blood pressure measured at least once per year.

  2. Take your medicine - Adopting healthy lifestyle habits is an effective first step in both preventing and controlling high blood pressure. If lifestyle changes alone are not effective in keeping your pressure under control, it may be necessary for you to take blood pressure medications. Remember that blood pressure medications are an ongoing treatment, not a cure, for hypertension. Never discontinue your medication even if your blood pressure reaches a normal level.

  3. Take time to chill out - Psychological or emotional stress is a known contributor to heart disease and high blood pressure. Stress brings about physiological changes and imbalances in hormones and substances in the body, which are thought to play a significant role in causing hypertension. In fact, nearly 70% of all high blood pressure problems are related to emotional responses and difficult or dangerous situations. Stress management programmes, including relaxation and meditation, can help lower blood pressure in people suffering from hypertension. But it alone cannot prevent the development of high blood pressure.

  4. Control cholesterol - Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in fats which circulates in your blood stream. When you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it results in excess build-up on the walls of the arteries (blood vessels). This build-up is called "atherosclerosis" or "hardening of the arteries". It narrows the arteries and reduces the blood flow, leading to high blood pressure. Eating in a heart-healthy way, being physically active, and losing weight if you are overweight, can reduce high cholesterol levels.

  5. Stay slim - Obesity leads to high blood pressure in several possible ways. Firstly, when you are obese, your heart needs to pump out more blood to supply the excess tissue. If you have hypertension and are obese at the same time, you will experience greater stiffness in your blood vessels throughout your body. Obesity too, may also be a causative factor for kidneys to retain salt. If you lose those excess pounds, you will not just lower your blood pressure but you will also be able to eliminate other conditions related to obesity.

  6. Quit smoking - Two immediate effects of smoking on heart and circulation are, an increase in your heartbeat rate and a sharp rise in blood pressure. Nicotine, a chemical found in cigarettes stimulates the central nervous system, causing the heart rate to rise and blood vessels to constrict. This narrowing of blood vessels causes the blood pressure to rise.

  7. Stay active - Regular exercise such as walking, jogging, skipping and biking reduces stress, tones muscles and controls weight. Regular aerobic exercise can reduce the average systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 10mmHg in individuals with mild hypertension. When you're starting out, engage in 30 minutes of moderate activity a day. Those 30 minutes need not be back-to-back. Spend 5 minutes using the stairs in the office, take a brisk 10-minute walk at lunch and take a 15 minute walk home from the bus or subway station.

  8. Don't take too much sugar - An excessive sugar intake may result in diabetes. Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood becomes too high because the body cannot utilise it properly. High blood pressure occurs approximately twice as frequently in patients with diabetes as in the general population. Good control of your diabetes and early detection and treatment of any possible complications are very important.

  9. Go for regular prenatal check ups - Women with pre-existing, or chronic, high blood pressure are more likely to have certain complications during pregnancy than those with normal blood pressure. However, some women develop high blood pressure while they are pregnant (often called gestational hypertension). Typically, the mother's blood pressure returns to normal after baby is born. If you are thinking about having a baby and you have high blood pressure, talk first to your doctor. Taking steps to control your blood pressure before and during pregnancy, and getting regular prenatal care will ensure your total well-being and your baby's health.

  10. Does the pill increase blood pressure - For some women, contraceptive pills have been known to raise blood pressure. This occurs most frequently among women who are overweight, who have had blood pressure problems in pregnancy, who have had kidney disease, or who have a family history of blood pressure problems. This pill-related hypertension is especially pronounced in women who smoke. It is advised to get your blood pressure checked before taking oral contraceptives and re-check it every 6 months or as your doctor prescribed.

  11. Lower Homocysteine - Homocysteine is a protein, which is not a normal dietary constituent but produced as a result of metabolism in body. Homocysteine damages the inner lining of blood vessels and can result in lesions that narrow blood vessels. High homocysteine level increases the risk associated with smoking and hypertension. 2 vitamins - folate and vitamin B6 - found in certain fruits and vegetables, however, can help lower blood homocysteine levels. Foods high in folate include orange juice, eggs and dark-green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli. Foods high in vitamin B6 include bananas, chicken, milk, fish and wholegrains.

  12. Cut down on salt - You are not born with a natural preference for salty food. Try to teach yourself to re-appreciate the natural flavor of food by gradually reducing the amount of salt and other high-sodium seasoning, like soy sauce in your cooking. By re-educating your palate, it will help to cut down your sodium intake by at least 15%. If you have tots, it is best not to expose them to excessively salty food. Babies in fact have such sensitive taste buds, they do not need salt in their food at all.

  13. Take lots of fruits and vegetables - A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower your blood pressure significantly. Fruits are Nature's best gift to men, they are high in potassium and low in sodium. Make these colorful companions your daily choice - at least 2 servings a day is ideal.

  14. Drink low fat milk - Studies have shown that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables as well as low fat dairy products (also known as DASH* diet) help bring down blood pressure significantly. A low-sodium version of the DASH diet lowers blood pressure even further.

  15. Spice up your meals - Expand your taste beyond saltiness in food. Learn to use spices and herbs and to complement the natural flavor of food. You would be surprised at how certain herbs can make the simplest dishes taste exquisite.

  16. Limit your caffeine - Whether caffeine in coffee and tea will raise blood pressure is still a controversial issue. Studies show that if you are a regular coffee drinker, it will have a minimal effect on blood pressure. However, blood pressure may go up to 12mmHg after one cup of coffee for occasional drinkers. Keep your coffee intake under 2 cups a day.

  17. Use salt substitutes - The main ingredient of salt substitutes is a potassium chloride. These salt substitutes contain very little sodium. They can be used for most individual except those who have kidney disease. Check with your doctor before choosing a salt substitute.

  18. Avoid alcohol - Avoid excessive alcohol. Limit alcohol to no more than 2 drinks a day for men or one drink per day for women.

  19. Read the labels - Stop and read the nutrition information on food labels when you do grocery shopping. Compare the sodium content of various food items before them in your basket. Go for those labeled with "low sodium", "unsalted", "salt reduced", "no salt added".

  20. Banish foods with excessive salt content - Potato crisps, pickled vegetables, salted fish and most processed foods are high in sodium. Limit your intake of these foods.

*Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension

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