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Ten ways to keep your blood pressure on check

By Jasmine Atieno
Thursday, September 3rd, 2020
Blood pressure on check.
In summary

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is called the “silent killer” because it has no symptoms, but is a major risk for heart disease and stroke. But if you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you might avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication, writes Jasmine Atieno  

1. Loose extra kilos

Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight can cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea), which further raises your blood pressure.

Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure.

Losing even a small amount of weight if you are overweight or obese can help reduce your blood pressure.

In general, you may reduce your blood pressure by about one millimetre of mercury (mm Hg) with each kilogramme of weight you lose. (Blood pressure is measured in mmHg – the height blood pressure pushes up a column of mercury.)

Besides shedding pounds, you generally should also keep an eye on your waistline.

Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high blood pressure.

2.  Exercise regularly 

Try to work out for at least half an hour a day. If your blood pressure is slightly raised, exercise can prevent you from developing full-blown hypertension.

Regular exercise can lower it by up to 9mmHg. Working out for just 30 minutes a day can cut your risk of hypertension.

Some examples of aerobic exercise you may try to lower blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing.

You can also try high-intensity interval training, which involves alternating short bursts of intense activity with subsequent recovery periods of lighter activity.

Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Aim to include strength training exercises at least two days a week.

Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise programme.

3. Reduce salt in your diet

Even a small reduction of sodium in your diet can improve your heart health and reduce blood pressure by about 5 to 6mmHg if you have high blood pressure.

The effect of sodium intake on blood pressure varies among groups of people. People over 50 years, diabetics and those with kidney disease are more sensitive to sodium.

In general, limit sodium to 2,300 milligrammes (mg) a day or less. However, a lower sodium intake 1,500 mg a day or less is ideal for most adults.

Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is food such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. 

4. Take magnesium

The mineral may help lower your blood pressure, as research found people with the highest intakes are a third less likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

Nuts, seeds, green leaves and dark chocolate are great sources. Dark chocolate is a good source of magnesium

5. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink

Alcohol can raise your blood pressure by 1 mm Hg for each 10 grammes of alcohol consumed.

A standard drink contains 14 grammes of alcohol. This is what constitutes a standard drink— 355 millilitres of beer, 148 millilitres of wine, or 44 millilitres of distilled spirits.

Moderate drinking is up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

6.  Don’t stress

Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure. Even stressing out now and again can contribute by making you eat badly, drink or smoke.

Try to accept things you can’t change and plan how to solve problems you can. Avoid stress triggers and take 15 minutes out of your day to sit quietly and breathe deeply.

Take some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as work, family, finances or illness.

Once you know what’s causing your stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress. 

7. Watch the coffee 

Caffeine causes a short, but dramatic blood pressure spike. You may need to reduce your intake of tea, coffee and soft drinks if you are particularly sensitive to it.

To see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a caffeinated beverage.

If your blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 mm Hg, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine.

Talk to your doctor about the effects of caffeine on your blood pressure. 

8. Eat well

Your diet should be rich in fruit, vegetables and whole grains, avoiding saturated fat and cholesterol.

Writing down what you eat can help shed light on what you are actually putting away.

And don’t stop being good when you head out for a meal – opt for healthy choices on restaurant menus. 

9. Get enough sun

Studies have found exposure to sunshine increases production of nitric oxide, which dilates arteries.

The vitamin D sun produces also lowers blood pressure and can reduce the risk of stroke.

10.  Get support

Supportive family and friends can help improve your health. They may encourage you to take care of yourself, drive you to the doctor’s office or embark on an exercise programme with you to keep your blood pressure low.

If you find you need support beyond your family and friends, consider joining a support group.

This may put you in touch with people who can give you an emotional or morale boost and who can offer practical tips to cope with your condition.

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