High blood pressure is one of the most common health problems in the world and one of the greatest risks for developing cardiovascular disease. Studies suggest that 30% of the adult population by 2025 will have hypertension, an increase of 60% over current rates.
As the incidence of hypertension increases, proper information is needed, both to prevent hypertension and treat it as well. What is defined as hypertension and why should we take care of blood pressure?
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure consists of systolic and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure (the highest number) is the force of blood when heart contracts and send blood, through the arteries, all over the body. Diastolic pressure (the small number) is the resistance of blood on the walls of the vessels when the heart relaxes, in order to refill with blood. The unit of blood pressure measurement is in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
When is blood pressure considered increased?
According to the latest American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology guidelines, normal pressure values are considered as 120/80 mmHg. Increased pressure values, that should be directly addressed by lifestyle changes are considered as values above normal values, while the first stage of hypertension is now considered to be above 130/80 mmHg.
Why does high blood pressure matter?
As often reported, arterial hypertension is the “silent killer”, which gradually destroys the vessels and leads to serious and health-threatening conditions. If you have increased blood pressure, then reducing it to normal may significantly reduce your risk of developing:
- heart attack
- heart failure
- aneurysm of the aorta
- peripheral vascular disease
- kidney disease
- cognitive impairment
Small changes for a low blood pressure!
You do not have to make major and dramatic changes in order to reduce your blood pressure. Small steps, can make the difference. Just to notice, that lifestyle changes, especially at the first stages of hypertension, are equally effective like drugs.
It is the most important and effective change. Blood pressure increases in proportion to weight, especially if you gain weight in the abdomen. According to reports, over 50% of hypertensive individuals have increased body weight. In addition, increased weight and obesity leads to sleep apnea, which significantly increases the risk of developing hypertension. The positive thing is that even a small weight loss of 5 kg can significantly reduce both systolic and diastolic pressure.
Check the dietary labels
As you may have noticed all manufacturers are obliged to have nutritional labels on their products, with reference to salt and sodium content. According to studies, people daily consume up to 3 times more sodium than the recommended daily intake. Recommendations for sodium intake are 2300 mg for people without hypertension and 1500 mg for those with hypertension. As modern lifestyles often require food consumption that is not homemade proper reading of the nutrition label is essential if you want to protect your heart’s health.
In any case, fast food, pre-cooked foods, canned foods, cold cuts and prepared soups are rich sources of sodium and should be limited, if not avoided. If you find it difficult to cut salt, you do not have to do it at once, but gradually reduce your salt intake.
Increase potassium intake
If sodium increases blood pressure, potassium, on the contrary, helps reduce it. Although many believe that only increased sodium intake is responsible for high blood pressure, even low potassium intake contributes to hypertension. It is recommended to consume at least 3.5-5 grams per day of potassium. Rich sources are mainly fruits and vegetables such as spinach, sweet potato, apricots, pomegranate, white beans, banana, broccoli and orange juice.
Increase physical activity
You do not have to become an athlete, nor dramatically change the way you live. The first and realistic goal for everyone is to have 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every day, such as intense walking or cycling. Even this small change can significantly reduce your blood pressure or even prevent pressure increase if you have normal values. If you have difficulty getting started, then think about an activity or a hobby.
Of course, it is not just that we eat but also what we drink. Increased alcohol intake significantly increases blood pressure while decreases the effectiveness of the antihypertensive medication. A small amount of alcohol, especially red wine, has been found to have health benefits for the heart. For this reason, it is recommended that women and men older than 65 years of age should restrict alcohol consumption to 1 portion of alcohol per day (10-20 grams of ethanol), while men under 65 to 2 servings per day (20-30 g of ethanol). Beware of portions!
Mental health and anxiety also play a very important role in maintaining blood pressure. Stress hormones lead to contraction of the vessels and cause blood pressure spikes. Besides, people under pressure often adopt bad habits such as smoking, overeating and overconsume alcohol, which indirectly increases the risk of hypertension.
In conclusion, heart health and low blood pressure are very important steps for a strong and healthy body. For this reason, adopt simple changes in your everyday life.