Let’s have you sit down right now before you read, that way if you get angry or if you have stress, you’ll be a bit more relaxed to read about blood pressure. But before we begin talking about lowering your high blood pressure, it should be known that this article is not meant to replace a trip to the doctor. If you have high blood pressure, see a physician as soon as you are able. And if that makes you angry, then you may want to watch the blood pressure. However, knowing how to talk about it with your doctor is a great way not to be nearly as stressed.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is widely known in the medical field as “the silent killer.” Some people report nausea, headaches, dizziness, or blurred vision, but there are usually no telltale symptoms or warning signs before a major complication. If death by terminal cancer is like being tied to train tracks or lined up in front of the firing squad, then death by hypertension is having a ninja sneaking up from behind and spinning your head 180 degrees. So what exactly is this silent killer? Well, normal blood pressure is considered to be at or lower than 120/80. Moderate hypertension is between 120/80 and 139/89, and anything above this is “high” blood pressure. The first number in these pairs refers to systolic pressure which is the pressure the arteries sustain when the heart contracts. The second number represents diastolic pressure, which measures the pressure in the arteries as the heart rests.
Hypertension is a problem of duration. When a complication arises from hypertension, such as a heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, hardened arteries, or kidney failure, it is in the majority of cases the result of years of having high blood pressure. Below are five practical ways to decrease hypertension for those with a little willpower.
The Risks of Stress
Stress does raise your blood pressure . In fact, you probably got nervous the last time the doctor took your blood pressure, which may have skewed the results; however, that stressful event was momentary. We all face stress each day, but it probably isn’t directly responsible for your hypertension unless you are “stressed” for prolonged periods of time. Reacting negatively to stress by eating comfort food and boozing away the pain is far more likely to affect one’s blood pressure. If you are having a hard time managing your stress, check out this article on how to get rid of stress.
The Best Ways to Lower Blood Pressure
The American Heart Association urges those with hypertension to consume no more than four grams of salt a day.
”’Excessive sodium or salt intake causes blood vessels to retain more fluid, thus increasing the volume of your blood. Your heart hates this because it has to work harder to push the blood throughout the body.”’ ”’Avoiding salt isn’t easy. Simply eye-balling grocery store fare or using your “gut feeling” while walking down the aisle won’t suffice. Make sure to read the labels of all your foods. Instead of adding salt to your meals, use natural herbs and spices. Also, look for “low-sodium” alternatives for those must-have items.
The high blood pressure diet is made up of fruits and vegetables and is low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and total fat, which is to say it is the diet we should all follow.
The DASH diet (dietary approach to stop hypertension) comes highly recommended and was sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Association. This diet, besides calling for reduced sodium intake, consist of the said fruits and vegetables, and also stresses whole grains, lean meats such as poultry and fish, and nuts and seeds that contain magnesium, fiber, and potassium. Strict adherence to this diet with the proper calorie intake will produce results even within two weeks. You can read more about it in the Dash Diet Weight Loss Solution.
Consistent exercise can reduce high blood pressure.
Aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, jogging, or using low-impact machines, is one of the best ways to lower high blood pressure and prevent its nasty consequences.”’ Perhaps you are as busy I am and you have to plan ahead to work a fart into your schedule. Remember, even walking for 30 minutes a day can make a difference. If you haven’t been physically active in awhile, ease into things. Exercising five to six days a week is ideal. More importantly, make a long term commitment that you can stick with.
Attaining an ideal weight is a great way to reduce high blood pressure.
If you are carrying around excess fat, your heart has to work harder to pump blood to all of the extra tissue. As with exercise, long-term lifestyle changes are in order. Be aware of your calorie needs, which vary depending on metabolism, gender, height, age, and activity level. Eat more frequently and in smaller quantities as opposed to gorging on large meals. In a speed-obsessed world, diet pills may seem like a good option, but consult a doctor first, for these medications may exacerbate hypertension.
Excessive drinking can increase blood pressure.
Anyone who’s enjoyed the pleasure of an epic hangover probably can connect the dots: lots of booze equals bad health. If you have to have a drink to relieve stress (you’re not alone), drink in moderation. Two drinks a day is considered “moderation,” and I would recommend switching to red wine for its health benefits. And just so you don’t fill up an empty milk jug with Tequila, a “drink” is considered 12 oz of beer or 5 oz of wine; however, if you are taking medication, you probably want to quit drinking altogether, as washing down pills with alcohol can lead to serious complications, such as death.
High Blood Pressure Medications
Once diagnosed with hypertension, you will probably be told by a physician to make many of the lifestyle changes I’ve already mentioned; however, if your blood pressure is very high, or you’re genetically predisposed to hypertension, or the lifestyle modifications prove insufficient, your doctor may prescribe medication or a combination of drugs. Below you’ll find a description of some of the more popular medications.
Diuretics are sometimes prescribed alone, but most often are used in combination with other drugs. Diuretics help the body remove excess salt and water, which thins the blood, making it easier to pump throughout the body.
Beta-Blockers essentially reduce the intensity of the heart’s contraction and lower the pressure in the arteries. Side effects can include coolness or numbing of extremities as well as wheezing (especially for those with asthma).
ACE inhibitors (angiotensin converting enzyme) and ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers) are drugs that dilate the arteries by reducing the production of (ACE) or blocking (ARB) Angiotensin II, a hormone that constricts arteries and increases blood pressure. These drugs can be very effective and have many added benefits for people with diabetes and a history of heart failure.
Calcium Channel Blockers prevent calcium from entering the muscle cells of the heart and arteries, which, like beta-blockers, reduces the force of the heart’s contractions and dilates the arteries. If you are prescribed any of these drugs or ones not mentioned, be sure to follow the doctor’s orders religiously. Blood pressure medications are powerful and should be taken seriously.
Natural Treatments for Hypertension
These dietary supplements have been proven to reduce hypertension; however, they should not be seen as a complete substitute for a healthy diet and exercise, or as a substitute for doctor-prescribed treatments. Speak with your doctor before trying herbal or natural supplements.
Countless studies have shown that Omega-3 fatty acids reduce high blood pressure. Omega-3 fatty acids from cold fish oil works best because they contain both DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). These fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation of the blood, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, and stop the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries. Be sure to purchase a fresh, quality fish oil supplement that has gone through molecular distillation to get rid of heavy metals such as mercury and other harmful pollutants. Also, purchase a brand that has a high concentration of both EPA and DHA.
Omega-3 from flaxseed oilhas also been shown to lower high blood pressure, although it is generally thought to be less effective than Omega-3s from Fish Oil. This is because flaxseed oil contains ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which must be changed by the body into EPA and DHA. A less-than-healthy body may be less efficient at making this conversion. If you are a strict vegetarian, then flaxseed supplements are a viable option, and they are far less expensive than a high-quality Fish Oil supplement.
CoQ10 (Coenzyme 10) has been shown to lower high blood pressure for some people and is especially recommended for those with isolated systolic hypertension. Unlike Omega-3s, CoQ10 naturally occurs in the body, but not always in sufficient amounts. Though patients with high blood pressure and certain heart diseases have been found to have low levels of CoQ10, it isn’t necessarily the case that a CoQ10 deficit is the culprit. If you go this route (after checking with a doctor), you can find CoQ10 supplements on Amazon.
Smoking and High Blood Pressure
Surprisingly, smoking isn’t a major concern in the development of hypertension; quitting probably won’t lower your blood pressure. However, smoking does temporarily raise blood pressure, and that first cigarette of the day does so significantly. What’s more, smoking is the main culprit in a multitude of cardiovascular diseases. Why strain your heart further when it is already under the duress of hypertension?