High blood pressure is a condition that can be caused by a number of factors. Unless checked by a healthcare provider, many individuals will never realize that they have high blood pressure because it often produces no symptoms. This occurs despite the strain that it places on the heart and blood vessels, affecting the cardiovascular system as a whole.
Approximately 1 in 3 Americans are diagnosed with higher than average blood pressure (systolic above 120 and a diastolic above 80). Because so many individuals are affected, it is pertinent to understand how to manage high blood pressure in order to avoid complications including but not limited to stroke, heart attack, kidney disease and more.
Tips to Manage High Blood Pressure
When looking to manage high blood pressure, changing one’s diet is usually the first line of defense. First and foremost, a diet high in saturated fats is likely to cause a substantial weight gain. Increased body fat percentage may disrupt an individual’s breathing during sleep, causing a spike in blood pressure as the cardiovascular system works to deliver more oxygen to the rest of the body in lieu of the deprivation.
Cutting out saturated fats generally helps with most facets of health, but the stress it relieves from the cardiovascular system directly helps with lowering blood pressure.
Additionally, sodium intake in excess may cause for a spike in blood pressure. Often, this may come from eating high amounts of processed or fried foods. Reducing this intake may reduce stress on the blood vessels, assisting with general heart health and reducing blood pressure in the process.
It is no secret that the average American is known for not meeting the daily recommendation for physical activity. While lifting weights does pose many benefits for things such as bone mineral density and tendon health, cardiovascular exercise (running, jogging, swimming) trains the heart to become more efficient in delivering blood to the rest of the body.
As long as approved by a physician, regular cardiovascular exercise helps to lower blood pressure by causing the heart to work more efficiently. As it takes less effort to contract and send blood out to the body, blood vessels are not as strained and may work in unison with the heart.
Additionally, exercising regularly helps to decrease body fat percentage and therefore decrease blood pressure in a similar way to diet.
3. Limit Alcohol and Stop Smoking
While alcohol in small amounts has been shown to decrease blood pressure a small amount, when consumed in excess it actually has the ability to raise blood pressure as a whole. Limiting excessive alcohol intake may provide for a steep decrease in high blood pressure, putting your body under less stress almost instantly.
Smoking tobacco can cause an increase in blood pressure due to the amount of chemicals causing blockage within the cardiovascular system. Cessation of tobacco use is important for a number of health factors, especially reducing blood pressure and reducing the risk of cancer.
Blood pressure often rises with stress. This occurs because when individuals experience stress, cortisol levels in the body increase causing blockage and a spike in blood pressure.
When stress is managed appropriately, these cortisol levels drop and blood pressure can decrease along with it. Living a healthy holistic lifestyle is dependent upon an individual’s ability to modulate stress, preventing the many health consequences that come along with it.
While this is usually the last line of defense, there are medications such as ACE and Beta- inhibitors that can help to reduce blood pressure if lifestyle modifications are not enough. Like any medication, it is best to try lifestyle changes first so as not to depend upon a “silver bullet” remedy.
High Blood Pressure and Your Kidneys
High blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney disease making it increasingly important to be aware of your numbers. When pursuing any of these options after being diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider prior to committing to any serious lifestyle changes to make sure your heart is healthy enough to withstand the changes.
The care team at Durham Nephrology Associates has more than 25 years of experience caring for people with kidney diseases and high blood pressure. Call (919) 477-3005 to schedule an appointment or request one online at any time.