Do you know your blood pressure? Are you aware of the tips to reduce hypertension and what causes it? Catch the 12 tips and "Know Your Numbers," which is the theme of World Hypertension Day that falls on May 17.
The Bad News
- High blood pressure (BP) is the number one risk factor that contributes to global deaths. It increases risks of heart attacks, strokes, and cardiovascular disorders.
- About 10 million people die every year due to high BP.
- Only 50 percent population is aware that they have high BP.
The Good News
It is possible to avoid deaths due to hypertension.
World Hypertension Day is organized to make people aware of this "silent killer." People are living with high blood pressure and they do not know! This is dangerous. The motto of dedicating a day to this lifestyle disease is to campaign for global awareness of this disease and to carry out BP screening by a campaign called MMM (May Measurement Month).
Before you know what to do to bring your blood pressure to the normal range, which is 120/80 mmHg, you must know the causes of high BP.
5 Common Causes of Hypertension
High blood pressure or hypertension is an alarming issue. Doctors worldwide anticipate it to increase significantly in the future. According to an estimate, the year 2000 saw about 972 million people suffering from high BP and the number is expected to shoot up to about 1.56 billion by the year 2025!
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High consumption of alcohol and tobacco
- Diet high in salt content and processed foods
- A family history of hypertension
- Thyroid and adrenal disorders
- Chronic kidney disease
Countries like India and Africa, plus many African countries, show a dangerously high number of people afflicted by this lifestyle disease. This World Hypertension Day 2018, know how your heart fares in matters of blood pressure and overall health.
Know Your Blood Pressure Reading
Technically, reading for blood pressure is shown as 120/80mmHg. "mmHg" refers to millimeters in mercury. The reading is spoken as "120 over 80." Number 120 is the systolic reading, which indicates pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle contracts. Number 80 is the diastolic pressure, which indicates pressure in the arteries when heart muscle rests between beats.
￼Blood pressure ranges explained:
- Normal range: 120/80 or a little lesser than this, but below 90/60. Congratulations! You need not worry. Just take care of your lifestyle to maintain the normal range.
- Elevated range: More than 120 and up to 129 in systolic and less than 80 in diastolic. Doctors do not regard this as high blood pressure. However, it indicates that you have gone out of the normal range; so you need to be cautious.
- Stage 1 Hypertension: Between 130-139 in systolic and between 80-89 in diastolic. A single reading is not enough to diagnose this stage. Doctors average your reading over a time period. If it shows high persistently, then you have hypertension.
- Stage 2 Hypertension: 140 and above in systolic and 90 and above in diastolic. Your doctor will recommend you medications. You also need to do some lifestyle changes, including changes in eating habits.
- Danger Zone: Above 180 in systolic and above 120 in diastolic. This is an emergency situation.
The American Heart Association calls the danger zone reading as "hypertensive crisis." If your blood pressure measures within this range, you need urgent medical intervention. Do not wait for symptoms to appear. Usually, they don't. You may end up with a sudden heart attack, which could be fatal. That's why World Hypertension Day emphasizes on knowing your numbers so that you can take action fast, in case your numbers are not within the normal range.
Rush to the emergency room, if you experience symptoms like:
- Pain in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- A headache
- Loss of muscle control, usually in the face, or paralysis - these are signs of stroke
- Blood in urine
CAUTION: Sometimes, a danger zone reading is temporary. After that, your reading shows normal. When your blood pressure reading falls within the danger zone your doctor might want to measure your blood pressure again for a second reading. This he or she will do after a few minutes of the first reading.
Your doctor will confirm a hypertensive crisis only when both readings come under the danger zone. This will decide whether you must rush to the emergency or start treatment as soon as possible.
12 Daily Tips to Reduce Hypertension -
1. Cut the pounds:
A healthy weight means normal blood pressure. It also means reduced stress on heart muscles and decreased risk of diabetes. A lot of things become well once you lose weight. Extra fat makes your heart sweat! This can be dangerous.
Do this: Ask, "is there a dietitian near me?" Consult one to help you chart out a weight loss program. Please avoid crash diets. Go slow and steady in losing pounds. This is a healthier way. It also gives more permanent results. World Hypertension Day promotes wellness of heart by asking people to begin with achieving a healthy body weight.
2. Take salt in a pinch:
Everybody knows that reducing salt in food can help to reduce blood pressure? But do you know why salt is an enemy of hypertension? Sodium in salt makes the body retain fluid. This can lead to swelling in legs and feet and difficulty in breathing. Fluid retention can make it difficult for your heart to function well.
Do this: Avoid sprinkling extra salt on food before eating. Use more of herbs and zero-salt seasonings. Ensure your canned foods are unsalted. Avoid processed foods, which are notorious for their high salt content. Use more fresh ingredients in your recipes.
3. Bring down that glass
If you cut down on alcohol consumption, your heart will thank you. You can drink because a study reveals that limited drinks help to increase good cholesterol level (hurray!), but go overboard and your heart weakens; your blood pressure rises. Excessive alcohol consumption can also add empty calories to your body.
Red wine is famous for being heart friendly. Some experts list it among foods that lower blood pressure. However, be careful with this one too, as no evidence clearly suggests that polyphenols present in red wine benefit the heart. World Hypertension Day 2018 promotes moderation in eating and drinking for a healthy living.
Do this: Take just one or two drinks a day. It is also a good idea to avoid drinking daily. If you are in the danger zone, it is better to avoid alcohol completely.
4. Kick the cigarette butt
Stop smoking. Period.
5. Junk fast-food; eat fresh
Fast foods and packaged foods contain preservatives, trans fats, and other unnecessary elements that can be detrimental to heart health.
Do this: Cut down on oily, fried foods. Introduce fresh fruits and vegetables to your platter. Eat more salads, sans the dressing. However, you can use healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil for salad dressing.
Tip: Your food plate must comprise 50 percent fruits and vegetables. Eat whole grains. Avoid white foods like refined white sugar, white flour, white bread, pasta, and likewise. Switch to low-fat dairy.
6. Sweat it out!
Never exercised before? Begin today, for the sake of your beautiful heart. Do you know International Yoga Day 2018 is on June 21? Why not gear yourselves with heart-friendly yoga asanas and breathing techniques to make your life better and healthier?
For those who have no idea how to start with exercise, consult a physical trainer. He or she will chart out a fitness plan for you based on your current health status, body weight, and signs of high blood pressure. Please consult your doctor before you start with any exercise regime. He or she will tell you the best workout depending on your blood pressure and the heart condition.
Do this: Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take your dog for walks. Park your car far from your destination. Take brisk walks for 30-45 minutes daily. Stay physically active as much as possible.
Yoga is a fine way to combat hypertension. However, you need to consult a yoga instructor before doing any asana. Ask, "Are there yoga instructors near me?" Consult one. It is important to do each yoga pose correctly to avoid injury and to reap the maximum benefit.
7. Know your numbers
Let a doctor measure your blood pressure. World Hypertension Day, which is on May 17, features MMM (May Measurement Month) that lets you measure your blood pressure and know about your heart health.
Do this: Whether you have hypertension or not, it is always better to follow a healthier lifestyle to reduce blood pressure and to maintain it at normal range.
8. Listen to your body
You need to be alert to symptoms and not overlook the feeling of something being wrong inside the body. This holds especially relevant to people with Stage 1 and Stage 2 hypertension and those in the danger zone.
Do this: Consult a doctor whenever you feel shortness of breath, get swelling in hands and feet, have a persistent cough, or notice any new occurrence on the skin surface or feel unwell in general.
9. Pop the pill regularly
If you are diagnosed with Stage 1 or Stage 2 hypertension, the doctor will usually recommend you medication, besides lifestyle changes. You can also choose alternative healing therapies along with your medication. The medications are supposed to reduce the risk of heart attacks, avoid blood clotting in the arteries, and to decrease bad cholesterol.
Do this: Please take your medicines religiously to avoid serious heart complications or emergencies. This World Hypertension Day, pledge to live a heart-friendly life.
10. Control your cholesterol
Eating habits play a vital role in increasing good cholesterol and reducing bad cholesterol.
Do this: Eat more nuts like walnuts and almonds. They contain Omega 3 fatty acid, which helps to raise good cholesterol levels. Those who believe that meats are the best for taste buds and health, especially to pump the body with protein, must try vegan diets. Protein for vegans is no issue, as plant-based diet can also complete protein requirement of the body. The bonus point is that such diet takes care of your heart. You will be surprised how light and healthy you feel! You would feel motivated on World Hypertension Day.
11. Don't flood your body
You need to keep a check on the amount of fluid intake every day. Do you know rapid weight gain is an indication that your body is probably retaining fluid? Soups, tea, coffee, ice cream, shakes, smoothies, drinks (hard and soft), and other such liquid foods, in addition to water, of course, add up to the total fluids in the body.
Do this: Drink up to 3 litres of fluids daily. They comprise the above-mentioned liquids. Please do not exceed the recommended limit.
12. Be smart. Manage stress
Stress is the reality of today's existence. You cannot escape from it. Yet, you can learn to manage it so that it does not take a toll on your health. The word "hypertension" itself consists of two words "hyper" and "tension." When you are high in tension your body takes the "fight or flight" mode and starts making appropriate changes to defend the situation. When your body stays in the defense mode continuously for a long time, it gets stressed out. That's when health problems start. Your heart is the worst hit.
Do this: Laugh a lot. Smile. Stop worrying about the future. Believe more in God. Practice meditation (thinking "meditation coach near me" ?)
World Hypertension Day resolution
Please take your hypertensive condition seriously. Well, not too seriously to fall sick with worry! However, with the proper lifestyle and dietary changes you can bring down your blood pressure and maintain it at a safe zone. Remember, untreated hypertension can damage blood vessels, heart, brain, lungs, and kidneys.
Please do not rely on a single reading of your blood pressure. Your doctor must take multiple readings and extract an average reading to diagnose your heart health. In case you are diagnosed with hypertension, you must keep in touch with your doctor and make sure you measure blood pressure readings at regular intervals.
Do you know hypertension is a lifestyle disease? So, the best thing you can do is make your lifestyle heart-friendly. Start from today.
Last but not the least, no matter what happens in your life, do not take it to your heart!
Shipra Singh is a senior content writer at lifepositive.com. She is a kidney donor and has experienced life's many colors, including grey shades, that have helped her discover her spiritual side. The writer believes her life is a novel and she makes sure to turn one page at a time to understand the Divine Plan better. A God-loving person, Shipra has healed herself of life's injuries through cooking and dance therapy.