- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Lowering Blood Pressure With Healthy Nutrition, Exercise And Reduction In Stress
In the United States 1 in 3 individuals have high blood pressure, yet there are very few warning signs to having hypertension, aside from occasional headaches. It is very important that we all know our blood pressure numbers to prevent future problems, as well as for treating current health issues.
What is blood pressure and hypertension?
Blood pressure is the term used for the force applied to the walls of the arteries as blood pumps through the heart. Hypertension is simply a medical term used for high blood pressure. There are many severe conditions that can result from extended high blood pressure including coronary heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and heart failure.
What are healthy blood pressure numbers?
Before you can truly understand which combination of blood pressure numbers are considered healthy, you first have to know what each number means. The upper number is called the systolic number and the lower is the diastolic number. Contrary to the once popular belief, that the systolic number is meaningless, both numbers actually play a very important part in your health and well being.
The systolic number, or upper number, is the pressure that blood exerts on vessels while the heart is beating, a high systolic number can be an early indicator or warning sign for a possible cardiovascular problem, such as a heart attack or stroke. A systolic reading over 140 is considered high and a sign that it is time to make an appointment to see your physician, the preferred systolic number for optimal health is 120.
The diastolic number, or lower number, is the pressure in your blood vessels, between heart beats (when the heart is resting). Diastolic blood pressure changes frequently throughout the day from a number of things such as exercise, stress or tension, body posture or nicotine use. A diastolic reading over 90 is considered high and anything below 60 is to low. The ideal Diastolic number is 80.
Diastolic And Systolic Combination
Both numbers are equally important when it comes to our health, if either one appears to be out of whack it is best to check with your physician to develop a plan to straighten the problem out. The ideal blood pressure numbers would be read like a mathematical fraction as 120 over 80.
Gaining Control Of Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension can be a very serious condition, but there is no reason why you can't take control of the situation, without the use of prescribed drugs. This article is not in any way telling you to stop your medications and to simply follow these steps, but with your doctors help and strictly following a proper diet, fitness regimen and practicing useful stress techniques you can definitely gain control of the situation.
Heart Healthy Food
There are many ways of lowering high blood pressure, one of the most important steps would certainly be switching to a healthy diet. Americans are known for over indulgence and food is no exception to this rule. Eating appropriate portions of heart healthy food is a sure fire way to quickly drop those diastolic and systolic numbers, not to mention a few unwanted pounds.
Blood Pressure Lowering Foods
Try boosting your potassium intake. Fruits and vegetables are a healthy source of potassium and taste great as well. Potassium is known for its ability to lesson the negative effects of sodium on your blood pressure.
Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries contain anthocyanins, a natural compound that is known to protect against high blood pressure. No need to gorge yourself on these berries, you can reduce your blood pressure with only one serving of these berries per week, though more of these nutritious goodies certainly wouldn't hurt.
Whole Grain Cereals
Many cereals, especially the whole grain and high fiber ones, like oat meal, shredded wheat, and raisin bran, can help prevent the development of hypertension. Put some of the aforementioned berries on that cereal and you get a double dose of delicious nutrition.
Dessert anyone? One ounce of dark chocolate, eaten daily, will also lower your blood pressure, all due to a natural compound known as flavonoids which are known to dilate blood vessels. Try to stick with chocolates containing at least 50% cacao for the best results.
Another potassium rich food, the baked potato. Not only do you get potassium from this wonderful food but you also the added benefit of magnesium, which just so happens to be another important mineral for lowering blood pressure.
Others Worth Mentioning
Nonfat yogurt, bananas, soybeans and spinach are also all great foods for lowering those blood pressure numbers due to their high magnesium and potassium content. This is in no way a complete listing, just keep in mind to check labels for important things like magnesium, potassium and low sodium.
Foods To Avoid
Now comes the hard part, giving up the foods you've come to enjoy for so many years, foods that may have brought you to this point in the first place. The good news is you don't necessarily have to give the foods up completely, just cut back enough to get your blood pressure at the desired levels and then keep an eye out for fluctuations.
Wow, your probably thinking the term "processed food" sounds like a pretty broad range of food, and your right. A major ingredient of processed food is salt and the main component of salt is sodium. The sodium found in food is the number one culprit of food induced spikes in blood pressure.
Salt is used as both a preservative and a taste enhancer by manufactures and restaurants alike. Some major processed foods to avoid are bacon, ham sausage, canned soups, ketchup popcorn, pretzels, chips, anything pickled, marinades, soy sauce and deli meats. The exception to these products are any brands specifically labeled low sodium. Avoid seasoning your meals with salt as well.
Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Having more than 3 drinks has been reported to temporarily raise blood pressure levels as well. What's even worse, continued alcohol use on this level is said to keep blood pressure levels raised on a long term scale.
High Fat Content Foods
Eating meat is fine but to keep your blood pressure at the ideal levels keep it to a minimum, and when you do eat meat try and stick with grilling low fat content meats such as lean steaks.
A few other obvious foods to avoid are butter and cooking grease. They are both known for their high fat content and should really be avoided altogether if possible.
Regular Exercise And Weightloss
As we get older we tend to gain weight, but this doesn't have to be set in stone. With the proper diet, and regular exercise, most of us can drop a few of the extra pounds we have put on over the years. Along with shedding the pounds, you will also notice the blood pressure numbers drastically dropping. If you are on medication for hypertension, you will find losing a few pounds will make the medication more effective as well.
When you start talking about exercise you may be surprised at just how many people claim they already get plenty of exercise at work or while taking care of the house. Well guess what you don't. Physical labor is not the same as regular routine exercise, although it's certainly not bad for you, it's also not providing you with the necessary exercise your heart and body truly need for optimal health.
You should talk to your doctor about developing a daily workout routine of about 30 - 60 minutes. Only your doctor can tell you if you should have restrictions to certain physical activities. Most importantly, don't think you can shove your entire workout routine into one or two days a week, you will certainly be causing more harm than good if you do and the end result could be damaging.
Stress, I'm sure we all have it, and we all have our own ways to deal with it. Stress has always been a major cause of temporary high blood pressure, and at times the most difficult to deal with. There are no quick dieting tips to make a stressful situation go away., but there are common ways to deal with them.
Everyone talks to themselves, mostly in our own heads, some out loud and some even have entire two way conversations with themselves, the point is we all do it. Next time you're feeling stressed out, use positive self talk to convince yourself that it will be OK and that your able to handle whatever life throws your way, you know you can.
Make Time For You
Feeling let down or stressed out? Take some extra time for yourself. Whether it's taking a walk, starting a hobby, listening to music, reading a book or whatever it is that gives you enjoyment and relaxation, just do it. It's all about you! Your health and well being, after all , is what's important. You can't be there for anyone else unless you're there for you first.
The methods for relieving stress are as numerous, as the causes, but here are a few more to keep in mind.
Take a deep breath and count to 10 before snapping.
Walk away from the stress for a while when you come back it may just seem easier to deal with.
Watch a movie, relax your mind.
Play cards or a board game.
There's no guarantee that any of these stress relieving methods will work for you, sometimes it's necessary to get professional help for such matters. If you do choose to change your eating habits over to a more nutritious diet, and take up regular exercise, you are soon to be well on your way to a longer, healthier life.
The hardest part is making the initial decision to do it and then sticking to it. Once you get over the initial hump of the dreaded first few weeks you will then find yourself craving the healthy foods and exercise over your previous lifestyle.
So, if your suffering from hypertension, of feel you may be in the future, go ahead and take the plunge, you have nothing to lose but a few pounds and some unwanted blood pressure points. What are you waiting for?