May 22, 2019
The American Heart Association estimates that about 103 million U.S. adults have high blood pressure, or hypertension, which puts them at greater risk for a host of other serious and sometimes fatal health conditions.
Left uncontrolled for years, high blood pressure can slowly cause damage to the body and lead to a heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease or failure, peripheral artery disease and vision loss.
The Mayo Clinic reports that bone loss and dementia have also been associated with hypertension.
So what is considered too high? You are considered in Stage 1 hypertension when your blood pressure is a systolic of 130-139 mm HG or a diastolic mm HG of 80-89. But even an elevated blood pressure (a systolic of 120-129 mm Hg and a diastolic of less than 80 mm HG) is of concern.
• Lose weight, especially around the middle. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Losing even a small amount of weight if you’re overweight or obese can help reduce your blood pressure. In general, you may reduce your blood pressure by about 1 millimeter of mercury (mm Hg) with each kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of weight you lose.”
• Exercise. Experts recommend around 150 minutes a week and a combination of aerobic exercise (walking, cycling, swimming) and strength training.
• Eat healthier. Watch your caloric intake and include more potassium-rich foods like avocados, bananas, grapefruit, cucumbers and spinach, and less sodium in your diet. Know exactly what you are putting in your body and cut down on processed foods.
• Quit smoking. While smoking’s association with high blood pressure is still debated, it has been shown to cause “a temporary increase in blood pressure” and increases “the risk for the buildup of fatty substances (plaque) inside the arteries (atherosclerosis) – a process that high blood pressure is known to accelerate.”
• Reduce your stress. Stress can affect our health in so many ways, including elevating blood pressure. Look for ways to better manage your daily stress like learning to say no to unnecessary obligations, meditating, journaling or even doing yoga.
If you are concerned about your blood pressure, make sure you are seeing your family doctor on a regular basis to monitor any concerning fluctuations.