You’ve been to your doctor and you are told that your blood pressure is starting to get a little high. Medical professionals call this hypertension, This can be very serious. High blood pressure has been linked to a number of medical conditions as I will discuss in this article.
There is a way however that you can help in keeping your blood pressure in the normal range through your diet and some exercise. Little changes can go a long way.
You can avoid some of the ravages of high blood pressure with a few steps that you follow painlessly.
Follow along with me in this article and at the end, I’ll offer you a checklist to help you get started keeping your blood pressure under control.
What is blood pressure?
As your heart beats it pushes your blood through your body. You have miles of arteries, veins, and capillaries (tiny blood vessels) in your body to deliver oxygen and nutrients to each cell. If your cells do not get fed with blood your cells will die so your circulatory system is quite important.
As your heart beats to create that push, pressure builds up in your circulatory system. In between beats, your heart momentarily rests and the pressure lowers but is never totally eliminated. The beating pressure is called systolic pressure and the resting pressure is called diastolic pressure.
The way we talk about blood pressure is by expressing the systolic pressure “over” the diastolic pressure. A nurse or doctor will say something like “Your blood pressure is 120 over 80.”
You may be asked to keep a journal of your blood pressure. If you take your blood pressure at home you will date it and record it as “120/80.” Your medical professional will instantly recognize your numbers.
Blood pressure studies indicate that lower is generally better than higher.
Normal blood pressure is considered 120/80.
High blood pressure is any set of numbers higher than that. For instance, 140/90 is considered seriously high and you should seek medical advice and treatment. Blood pressure over 180/120 is considered a crisis and you need immediate medical attention. You have a high chance of a pending stroke or heart attack.
High blood pressure if left untreated can lead to stroke, heart attacks, liver and kidney failure, blindness, amputation, and a whole host of other ailments, none of which are pleasant for you and cost our healthcare system huge amounts of money.
What causes high blood pressure?
- Carrying extra body weight,
- Too much salt in your diet (retains fluids)
- Lack of physical exercise,
- Family history and genetics
- Kidney disease
- Kidney disease
- Sleep apnea
- Old age
- Alcohol consumption
There is also one cause called essential hypertension. This is where there is no known cause for high blood pressure but it needs to be treated just the same.
What can you do to manage your blood pressure?
Managing your blood pressure starts cutting out bad habits.
Quitting smoking is one thing that you can do immediately to start lowering your blood pressure. I know that for smokers reading this it will be hard to quit smoking. Smoking has been said to be harder than breaking some narcotic habits. Don’t give up. There are many ways available to help you reduce or quit smoking. Smoking cessation programs through your doctor or other medical advisors may help. There is the nicotine patch, hypnosis and simply cutting back are all good ways to stop smoking.
Don’t turn to using e-cigarettes (vaping) to help you stop smoking. These products have their own set of risks and they still contain nicotine, the chief ingredient in smoking that causes high blood pressure.
Eliminate alcohol from your diet. Recent studies by the Lancet have proven that there is no ideal amount of alcohol to have in your diet. Brain health is affected by any use of alcohol and alcohol raises blood pressure.
Eating a more healthy diet helps tremendously. Eating the type of diet that the VeganPaleoDiet.com encourages will go a long way to helping you be healthy with food and you will lose a whole lot of weight in the process. Eliminating most of the starch in your diet and eating only healthy carbohydrates from vegetables and a few fruits will help you lose lots of weight. This alone may be the answer to your hypertension.
Getting regular exercise may be easier than you think. If you are in somewhat good physical shape going for regular walks could be the way you add activity to reduce high blood pressure.
If you are extremely obese and find even walking too difficult try losing weight first to make exercise easier. Just remember everything you can do to get even a few more steps in a day will help. Even a small amount of progress is still progress, just the same. Realize that your journey to lose weight and start exercising will be longer than many people but you need to try to control your hypertension. Many small steps will lead you to success.
Stress control is more important than you think. If you’ve ever lost sleep over a decision, worked hard to meet a deadline, or worried over your family situation you’ve had more stress than you need in your life.
You can be more vulnerable to stress from poor health, lack of sleep, dealing with a major change in your life, poor dietary habits, poor physical health and not having a support network.
It’s also important that we all can tolerate different levels of stress. You may also be able to tolerate more stress at different stages of your life as well. As you age you may tire more easily and as a result, may want less stress than a 20 year old. You also may realize consequences or actions that a younger person may not appreciate.
Sleep apnea leads to a lack of sleep and will cause you to be tired throughout the day. It has several causes but one major cause is being overweight. When you are overweight it is harder to breathe when you’re laying down. This can lead to several seconds or even minutes where you do not breathe when you’re sleeping and your body wakes you up to get a breath. You usually don’t even know it’s happening. You may find yourself getting up several times a night to pee.
Sleep apnea is a major contributor to high blood pressure. See your doctor. Your doctor after an initial screening will send you to a sleep disorders clinic where you will spend the night hooked up to monitors to study the degree of sleep apnea. In a few cases you may need to return for a second night.
After your sleep study is completed you may speak to a specialist who will probably write a prescription for a CPAP or BIPAP machine. This is an air pump and mask that will keep you breathing regularly all night. It is preset and you cannot change the settings. You may think it is difficult to sleep with a mask on but it is easy to get used to and you will find yourself feeling refreshed in the morning.
So let’s go back to diet
The information I’m giving here is not just for vegans or vegetarians. It’s for everyone who has been told they are hyper-tense and want to start changing to a healthier lifestyle.
The first thing is to keep a record of what you’re eating, how much, and when. You might be surprised to see how much and how often you are eating. (we all do it – I’m not pointing any fingers)
The second thing you need to do is to determine the healthiest alternative foods you can eat. Even vegans and vegetarians can have a lot of starchy food in their diet which doesn’t help if you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Stick to green vegetables, tomatoes, a few beans like kidney beans(613 calories per cup), and grains like quinoa(222 per cooked cup).
Some vegetables that should be on your shopping list will be
Lettuce (romaine, iceberg)
Sweet potatoes or yams
As you create meal plans based on your vegetables that are on hand or in season Remember that flavor is not based on salt. Use Italian spices, curry, and Thai seasoning. Add some heat with hot peppers like jalapeno papers. Use rice and potatoes sparingly. If using rice or other grains use whole grains not the ones where the bran has been scrubbed away. Use pot barley rather than pearl barley, use brown rice instead of white rice and maybe even use a low glycemic bean rather than rice.
When you’re measuring out rice for your weight loss diet use a teaspoon and not a cup or a ladleful. Rice is able to absorb flavors in your stir fry. Three to four teaspoons of rice is all that you want or need.
Unless you have been told otherwise by your doctor or cardiologist drink water with every meal. If you hate the taste of the water in your area get an undersink filter with activated charcoal. Your water will become “delicious”. There’s no need to buy bottled water,
Unless advised otherwise never drink distilled water in any significant quantity. All of the calcium and other minerals have been removed and it will tend to leach minerals from your body and teeth. Distilled water may reduce electrolytes in your system because of lack of potassium.
In closing, you should always be concerned that you’re leading a healthy lifestyle and diet. We all get older and growing old can be done gracefully or you can become a burden to yourself and those around you. Poor lifestyle choices like being overweight, being a saltaholic, and not getting exercise can lead to unhealthy conditions.
There is hope however. By increasing healthy lifestyle choices (and they really are choices) you can reduce the effects of high blood pressure and with some luck maybe even return your blood pressure to normal. If your doctor puts you on medication, keep taking your medication and inform your doctor if you have had some success in diet and exercise. Your doctor may reduce your medication or eliminate it altogether.
Your checklist for high blood pressure reduction
- I maintain a healthy weight
- I don’t smoke
- I eat food low in fat and simple carbohydrates
- I take my medication as instructed and do not skip doses
- I walk or exercise at least 20 minutes per day
- I eliminate salt from my diet where practical
- I substitute seasonings for salt
- I read labels and buy food with low sodium
- I rinse can goods to reduce salt
- I don’t drink alcohol