Lifestyle Is Key to Managing Hypertension

May 29, 2018 in Foodland Chronicles, Health, Mediterranean, Uncategorized, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

Hypertension or high blood pressure has long been known as a silent killer; the fact that humans don’t really feel their blood pressure, means that a person can have lethal blood pressure and not have a clue. So the first step is to take opportunities to check your blood pressure fairly frequently. The next step is to know what’s dangerous and what’s not.

In November of 2017 the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) posted the new lower guidelines for the detection, prevention, management and treatment of hypertension. See Note at bottom. In essence, research since 2003 has shown that complications can occur at lower numbers than the former guidelines.

Since high blood pressure doubles the risk for cardiovascular complications (like stroke, heart attack, blood clots and even dementia) compared with those with normal level of blood pressure, the two associations (ACC and AHA) want people with risk to know about it. All the categories and guidelines are listed in the link above.

One good thing is that there are very effective medications for high blood pressure. But some of you out there may be like me and don’t want to take medication if a problem can be averted by managing lifestyle. Unfortunately, the medications have side effects that lifestyle changes don’t have.

Blood pressure is one of those problems that lends itself very nicely to lifestyle changes; there is a very real possibility that you can actually do something to lower your too high blood pressure or maintain a healthy blood pressure. Making lifestyle changes have a long history of lowering blood pressure. The following ideas will help you get on the road to maintaining a healthy blood pressure, in concert with, or fully without, medications:

  • The biggest change you can make is to eat a DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). It’s basically a Mediterranean diet that is low in sodium/salt. Some call it the Mediterranean DASH. The biggest chance of lowering your blood pressure is reducing sodium/salt in your regular intake. Fruits and vegetables are a go; and sugars and processed flours are – well, not encouraged. The style of eating is also low in saturated fat, which is good for your heart on other levels too. There’s great information about the DASH diet at this link. I’ve written many blogs about where the salt is lurking; you may want to go back and read some of those posts. If you don’t have time right now, just know that cheese; soups; gravies; deli meats; pizza; breads; pastries; restaurant foods and even chicken and turkey (which often have added sodium solution added) are some of the top offenders against keeping your sodium intake down.
  • Losing weight, which may happen if you go on the Mediterranean DASH diet, is also one of the effective ways to lower your blood pressure.
  • Any exercise helps, but the gold standard is to make the exercise aerobic. So if walking is your exercise, gradually move a little faster or take a hill. Shoot for at least 90 to 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise.
  • Concentrating on a DASH eating style will get potassium into you; which is yet another way to lower your blood pressure. Potassium is in far more than the proverbial banana.
  • Limiting alcohol is one last way to keep your blood pressure in the healthy range. The recommendation is for one drink a day for women and two for men.

Let’s stay on top of this potentially silent, but lethal, health problem. Decide today to design a lifestyle including a diet that systematically reduces sodium and increases potassium (vegetables and fruits); lose some pounds; watch the alcohol; and move a tad faster. Give yourself time to make the necessary changes; it’s worth the effort.

Note:Blood pressure categories in the new guideline are:

Systolic Diastolic Severity/Risk
Under 120 Under 80 Normal
120-129 <80 Elevated*
130-139 80-89 Stage 1
>139 >89 Stage 2
>179 &/ or-> over 120 Crisis! (Hypertensive)

* Paul K Weston: “Having even Elevated - it's a yellow light that you need to be lowering your blood pressure, mainly with non-drug approaches."