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Guide To Hypertension
|Is It Possible To Prevent Hypertension?
Scientists are still not sure what the causes of high blood pressure are. But they have identified risk factors which if you have, make it more likely you will develop the condition. Some of these risks you can do something about (modifiable) and some you can't (non-modifiable). As high blood pressure (hypertension) significantly raises your chances of heart disease, paying attention and reducing your exposure to the condition will provide huge benefits. If you have been diagnosed with prehypertension (the stage before a full-blown hypertension diagnosis), even a small reduction in blood pressure can reverse the development of strokes and heart attacks. Furthermore, making small improvements to your lifestyle will help to prevent type 2 diabetes, which often goes hand in hand with hypertension. The following is an overview of those lifestyle changes you can make:
Manage Your Weight
Simply being overweight doubles your chances of having high blood pressure, so losing weight is one of the most important things you can do for your cardiovascular health. Even being 10 pounds over the healthy weight for your height increases your risks. The more you weigh the more blood the heart needs to pump around the body to feed those extra fat cells. The larger the volume of blood, the more pressure there is against the walls of the blood vessels, increasing blood pressure. Being overweight also increases your chance of developing high cholesterol levels, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. If you don't know your body mass index (BMI), the standard way of determining if someone is overweight, find out now (BMI calculator). According to the latest statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one third of US adults are now obese (and 17 percent of children). The highest rates of obesity are in Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia. See obesity in women for more information.
Eat A Healthy Diet
As salt increases the volume of blood circulating in the body, you should be careful about adding salt to foods, and avoid pre-processed meals and junk food which contain large amounts of hidden salt. You should limit your sodium intake to 2,000 mg or 2 g a day. Alternatively follow the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. The plan can be viewed on their website: www.nhlbi.nih.gov.
As a general guideline aim for 30 minutes aerobic exercise, five times a week. This includes brisk walking, cycling and swimming. If you don't have a safe place to walk, consider buying a DVD like Walk Away The Pounds, so you can exercise in the comfort of your living room. If you don't have time for a formal exercise plan, use every opportunity in the day to spend more time walking. For example, park further away from the store than is necessary and walk up stairs rather than taking the elevator. Buy a pedometer to measure how many steps you take and aim for 10,000 per day.
Or if you do smoke, quit. While smoking does not cause continuous hypertension, it does cause elevated levels for 30 minutes after finishing a cigarette. If you smoke one pack a day, that means your blood pressure readings are higher than normal for about 10 hours. Eventually this damages the lining of your blood vessels, raising the risk of coronary heart disease.
Heavy drinking can lead to high blood pressure. If you do choose to drink alcohol limit yourself to one drink per day (or 2 for men). This is considered moderate drinking. Fortunately it's not all doom and gloom - research shows that in moderation, alcohol may even lower the risk of heart disease in women. However if you are taking blood pressure drugs such as beta blockers, alcohol may interfere with their effectiveness, so do mention this to your doctor.
If you had an elevated reading but have not yet been diagnosed, think about buying a home blood pressure monitor. As the symptoms of hypertension are silent, many people have the condition for years without realizing it. By the time it is diagnosed, it could already have damaged their system. It should be noted that self measurement is never a substitute for having your blood pressure checked by a healthcare professional. Every adult should have their levels medically checked every 2 years, or more often if elevated levels are discovered.
Although stress does not cause high blood pressure, it can keep levels raised longer than normal. Learn to manage the stress in your life by either avoiding the causes or learn relaxation techniques to reduce the effects. Alternative therapies like biofeedback training, yoga and meditation are all good aids. Take our online stress test to discover your risk of stress-related illness. See also, the dangers of stress.
1. If you have hypertension, be sure to read about treatment for high blood pressure. Managing your condition with lifestyle changes is just as important as taking medications.
2. If you are planning a pregnancy, read about hypertension during pregnancy.
3. As the conditions are so closely linked, read about stroke prevention and heart attack prevention.
4. If you take oral contraceptives, read our article on the birth control pill and high blood pressure.
5. Inform yourself about the condition. See why is high blood pressure dangerous? and how effective are blood pressure drugs?