Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries, the vessels that carry blood away from the heart. It is normal for your blood pressure to fluctuate during the day. When it stays high, you have high blood pressure or hypertension. This increased pressure puts a strain on your heart that could lead to a heart attack. It also affects other organs in the body like the kidneys and brain. There are literally hundreds of prescription medications for treating blood pressure but certain lifestyle changes can also have beneficial effects on blood pressure.
According to The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, over 90% of Americans have or will have hypertension in their lifetime. When blood pressure reaches 115 over 75, the damage to the body has just begun. For every 20 over 10 increase, the damage actually doubles. According to a national survey, 70% of Americans are aware of their high blood pressure, 59% are being treated, and 34% have it under control.
Eating foods that are low in saturated fats, low in total fat, and low in cholesterol can reduce blood pressure. A well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products should make up the majority of your eating plan. Be sure to ease into any change in the eating regimen. Sudden changes can cause bloating and diarrhea, lessening your chance of sticking with it. The lowered pressure effect of this dietary change is often the same as taking a blood pressure medication.
Maintaining a healthy body weight reduces your chances of developing hypertension. The best way to control body weight is to eat fewer calories and exercise more. Proven calorie reduction techniques include eating smaller portions, using low fat or fat-free products, and limiting sugar intake. Exercising just 20 to 30 minutes a few times a week can produce dramatic results. Physical activity can include anything like walking, bicycling, or gardening. Simply getting your body in motion and keeping it in motion for a period of time is all you need.
Reducing sodium in your diet is another way to keep the pressure down. The average American should consume no more than 2.4 grams of sodium per day. For someone with high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend 1.5 grams or less of sodium. Processed and pre-packed foods usually contain a high amount of sodium. After a high sodium meal, many people have a bloated feeling due to excess water retention. This extra volume increases the blood pressure. Salt substitutes are available but be sure to check with your doctor before using any of them. Most contain potassium which reacts with certain medications.
Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol can raise your blood pressure. It also harms the liver, brain, and heart. Alcohol is also high in calories, which can lead to weight gain. If you drink, be sure to have a moderate amount. This is defined as one drink a day for women and two drink a day for men.
None of these lifestyle changes will work unless you stay on them. Americans must change how we view blood pressure. This disease is much more prevalent than previously thought. The sooner action is taken, the better.