High blood pressure, also know as hypertension, is a condition where the force of the blood against the artery wall is too high. 45% of Americans have high blood pressure. Many develop high blood pressure as they age due to obesity and other lifestyle issues, but these same issues are leading to hypertension in children and young adults.
Blood pressure is often referred to as the “Silent Killer” because it may show no symptoms but could indicate an underlying health condition or an impending crisis like a heart attack or stroke. For this reason it is critical to know your blood pressure, test it regularly, work towards a normal reading and seek medical attention if it spikes higher.
Blood pressure is measured with two numbers. The first number is the systolic pressure, which measures the pressure when your heart beats. The second number, diastolic pressure, measures the pressure between beats when your heart is at rest. It is recorded as Systolic/Diastolic.
- Normal blood pressure is 120/80.
- Prehypertension is 129/89.
- Stage 1 hypertension is 130/80.
- Stage 2 hypertension is 140/90 or higher.
Higher numbers may indicate a serious medical condition and should encourage medical treatment.
While medications may be necessary to lower your blood pressure, lifestyle changes should be also be considered. All medications have side effects, but healthy lifestyle changes have so many positive side effects.
Here are 10 Action Steps you can take change your lifestyle and lower your blood pressure:
1. Quit smoking-this is key to a better blood pressure and a healthier, longer life
2. Drink less alcohol-moderate drinking is fine, but over-imbibing spikes your blood pressure
3. Cut back on caffeine-a reasonable amount caffeine is fine, but for some, caffeine impacts their BP
4. Prioritize sleep-shoot for 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night, improve your sleep hygiene
5. Stay properly hydrated with plain old water rather than sugar sweetened, processed drinks
6. Lose weight-losing even a few pounds can have an impact on blood pressure, belly fat increases blood pressure, men 40 inch waist or less, women 35 inches or less
7. Eat a healthy diet-look into the DASH diet (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) which indicates a nutrient dense diet centered in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, nuts, lower fat protein sources like chicken, fish, and beans
8. Reduce your sodium intake-for those with high BP, limit yourself to 1500 mg per day, processed foods are loaded with sodium, ditch the salt shaker, cook your own food whenever possible
9. Exercise regularly-the minimum amount of cardiovascular exercise is 150 per week or 30 min, 5 times a week, more is better, include strength training twice a week
10. Reduce your stress-avoid stressful situations, try meditation and yoga, write down things you are grateful for in a journal, exercise can be a powerful stress reducer
Take your blood pressure regularly and know your numbers! If your numbers begins to climb, take steps to bring it down to normal. Seek medical attention when you see a number much higher than normal. It may save your life.
When you take your blood pressure, allow yourself 5 minutes to relax in a seated position. Take several deep breathes. Sit back in the chair with your feet flat on the floor.
Be proactive with the above action steps to lower or maintain your blood pressure. You will live a longer, healthier life!
by Christy Coughlin, Wellness Coach