blood pressure


High blood pressure (also know by the medical term: hypertension) is called the “silent killer”, because it often has no obvious symptoms to signal you that something is wrong. High blood pressure develops slowly over time and can have many different causes. It cannot be cured, but it can be managed by making lifestyle changes and, if your doctor prescribes it, medication.

Do you know your numbers?  That is, do you know how high your blood pressure is? The American Heart Association says that normal, healthy blood pressure should be below 120 for your systolic measure and below 80 for the diastolic measure.  If those numbers are higher than 180 and 120 you are in a hypertensive crisis and should see your doctor immediately.

blood pressure




The Mayo Clinic advises that “it's best to have your blood pressure checked by a trained health care provider using an accurate instrument. When considering if you have low or high blood pressure, your provider should consider the average of two or more blood pressure readings from three or more office visits.”  Free public blood pressure machines at pharmacies and other stores “aren't standardized, which makes it hard to know how accurate they are.”

If you have high blood pressure or even if your readings are in the normal range, here are 8 lifestyle changes you can make to help keep your blood pressure in check.

1. Get Regular Medical Check-Ups

It is obvious that ignoring health problems doesn’t mean they will go away. Half of all American adults have hypertension, according to the American Heart Association, and many don’t even know it. See your doctor for an annual checkup to stay on top of your blood pressure numbers.

2.  If Your Doctor Prescribes Them, Don’t Skip Your Meds

“Skipping or suddenly stopping medications that treat heart disease-related ailments can have a significant impact, says cardiologist Dr. Giridhar Vedala of Memorial Hermann Health Systems in Houston. When your body is used to having a medication in your system, the body’s reaction can make things like high blood pressure rebound even higher than they were before. When water pills (to treat excess salt) are skipped or stopped, you can have fluid retention, higher blood pressure and shortness of breath.”

3. Brush and Floss Your Teeth

If you don’t regularly brush and floss your teeth your gums can become inflamed due to periodontal disease and inflammation is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Although it can take months or even years for periodontal disease to develop, it poses a real threat to your blood pressure and your health. So brush and floss daily and see your dentist every six months for an examination and thorough cleaning. 

4. Manage Your Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is a great way to help lower blood pressure. Make smart food choices, that is, like your mom said: “Eat your fruits and vegetables.”

5. Avoid Salty Food

While we are on the subject of diet, salt and sodium can worsen hypertension. Salt causes the body to retain fluid, which in turn can cause high blood pressure. Reducing your salt intake means not only showing restraint when reaching for the salt shaker, but is also important to read food labels for salt and sodium content. Processed foods have become a major part of the diet of most Americans, but they often contain very high levels of salt. Guidelines for daily sodium intake range from 1,500 to 2,300 mg for most adults.

6. Load Up on Potassium 

Potassium is good for lowering your blood pressure because, medical experts say, it slows down the effects of salt on the body. Foods rich in potassium include bananas, dried apricots, leafy greens, avocados, lentils, plant milks (like almond and soy milk), and coconut water.

7. Stay Active

The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 90-150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. (The term aerobic actually means "with oxygen," which can help muscles to burn fuel and move.) Exercises like walking, running, swimming, and even dancing will make your blood vessels expand and contract, which keeps them flexible and improves blood flow.

8. Lower Your Stress Level

Stress is bad news for people with hypertension. Stress produces hormones like cortisol which makes your blood vessels constrict and cause your blood pressure to spike. Stress also leads some down the path of unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking alcohol, overeating, and smoking—all of which can be additional factors in elevating their blood pressure.

 "Lifestyle changes are difficult for everyone," concedes Sabra Lewsey, M.D., a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine quoted in AARP Magazine, "but they are profoundly important and can make ​lifesaving gains in your health."


Timothy J. Cuddigan (Founder - Retired)
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