High Blood pressure or hypertension is a leading risk factor of cardiovascular disease and, unfortunately, very common in modern-day society. A worsening of the obesity epidemic throughout the United States has made high blood pressure a fact of life for more of our patients, many of whom are experiencing it at even younger ages. Blood pressure involves the resistance of blood flow within the arteries, as well as how much blood the heart must pump. There are two numbers to every blood pressure reading. The upper number, or systolic, measures arterial pressure during a heartbeat while the lower number measures it between beats. Both numbers are relevant when deciding if your blood pressure needs to be treated.
High blood pressure is, unfortunately, relatively silent in its earliest stages. So many patients do not address it until it becomes a bigger issue. Unfortunately, by the time blood pressure issues have run their course, serious complications including heart attack, heart failure, kidney problems, vision loss, cognitive impairment and more can all start to occur.
No matter what stage of hypertension you are in, there are three quick and easy ways to help get it under control. Of course, this should all be discussed with your cardiologist before making any changes to your lifestyle.
Ultimately, the long-term solution to lowering blood pressure is improving your diet. Even small changes can get you started right away. First, start drinking more water. Dehydration can thicken your blood and make it harder for your heart to pump that blood through your body. Second, avoid the sodium. While there is some debate about the longer-term effects of sodium on blood pressure, we know that it does create an unnecessary short-term spike. Remember that sodium from added salt from a saltshaker is not your main issue. Check the nutrition labels on the foods you are eating, and you will often find incredibly high sodium numbers. You should also reduce your alcohol and caffeine consumption to no more than one drink a day.
Quite possibly the best long term weight maintenance improvement to your life is exercise. You should be exercising at least three times a week for 30 to 45 minutes per session. Make sure you are getting your heart rate up by doing cardiovascular activities such as swimming, jogging, speed walking and more. You also need to incorporate strength training, whether it is at the gym, using free weights, or at home using your own body weight. Overlooked, however, is also breathing technique. Exercising your lungs through deep breathing, as well as resistance breathing known as IMST, can improve your blood pressure dramatically.
Stress is one of the most tangible causes of high blood pressure, and it is something that we experience on a regular basis. Whether it is at work or home, stress is pervasive these days. Indeed, the fight or flight reaction that protected our ancestors from dangers in their everyday life has adapted to the new realities of humanity – less true danger and more stress. Our constant stress response creates a host of problematic issues, not least of which is high blood pressure. Meditation, mindfulness, yoga, exercise, and improved diet can all fight stress. Our patients should also understand what triggers their stress and try to fix it at the source.
Of course, some patients cannot manage their high blood pressure and will require medication. This should be discussed with their cardiologist to learn more about the pros and cons of medical intervention. Addressing high blood pressure in its earliest stages can often avoid significant cardiovascular issues and interventions. For more information or to schedule a consultation with one of our cardiologists, please contact our office.