High blood pressure
Since today, Valentine's Day is all about love and hearts, I'd like to raise some awareness for the importance of actually loving ... your heart!
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a global problem that is one of the biggest contributing risks for death. It presents in 1/3 of the the population, but only 50% is aware of it!
Blood Pressure (BP) is the force or pressure of your blood pressing against the walls of your blood vessels. Because of this, blood flow is possible which is necessary for delivering nutrients and oxygen to organs and tissues throughout the body. If this pressure becomes too high, it might damage the blood vessels and cause health problems. You can compare this to inflating a balloon with too much air.
When measuring blood pressure, two readings are taken. The systolic pressure is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when the heart beats. The diastolic pressure is the lowest pressure when the heart relaxes.
Until recently it was considered adequate to aim for a BP below 140/90 mm Hg in treatment for hypertension. However, further studies have shown that reducing the systolic BP to less than 120 mm HG reduces the risk of cardiovascular events.
As a result, the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association guidelines for the management of high BP (2017) have defined the following:
Normal BP: < 120/80 mm Hg
Elevated BP: 120-129/<80 mm Hg
Hypertension: ≥130/80 mm Hg
Recommended to aim for a BP below 130/80 mm Hg in hypertension treatment
If hypertension is left untreated, it can cause death or serious health consequences like heart attack, stroke, kidney damage, atherosclerosis and dementia. Therefore it's important to regularly check your blood pressure, especially when one of the following applies to you:
High salt diet
High alcohol consumption
Lack of physical activity
Not enough fruit and vegetables
Family history of hypertension
Hypertension is treated mainly with lifestyle changes and medication. Even though medication is sometimes necessary, this can come with side-effects too. Therefore it's better to prevent your blood pressure from spiking up!
Here are 5 things to prevent high blood pressure:
1. Be physically active
The previously mentioned guidelines suggest moderate physical activity of 30-60 minutes for 4-7 days per week for preventing hypertension to develop, or to help reduce the BP in people with hypertension.
2. Eat a healthy diet
Eating more fruits and vegetables as well as low-fat dairy products and wholegrain foods high in dietary fibre is recommended especially for hypertensive people and people at risk of developing hypertension.
3. Avoid tobacco and alcohol
Limit alcohol consumption to ≤2 drinks per day and quit smoking to help lowering the risk for cardiovascular disease.
4. Lose weight (if overweight) To reduce BP in hypertensive people, to prevent hypertension from developing and to just maintain overall health, it's important to aim for a BMI (body mass index) of 18.5 - 24.9 kg/m^2. Here's how you calculate your BMI: (weight in kg) ÷ ((height in m)^2)
5. Manage stress
Stress and also pain can cause the BP to spike up. Especially when you have hypertension or are at risk for developing this, it's important to manage your stress so that the BP won't get even higher. Good ways to do this are by meditating, practising yoga and cognitive behavioural therapy (especially with relaxation techniques). Take some time for yourself and relax :)
*Always consult a medical doctor if you're suffering from high blood pressure.*
Kara A. et al. Hypertension Canada’s 2018 Guidelines for Diagnosis, Risk Assessment, Prevention, and Treatment of Hypertension in Adults and Children. Can J Cardiol
Paul K. Whelton, Robert M. Carey, Wilbert S. Aronow, Donald E. Casey, Karen J. Collins, Cheryl Dennison Himmelfarb, Sondra M. DePalma, Samuel Gidding, Kenneth A. Jamerson, Daniel W. Jones, Eric J. MacLaughlin, Paul Muntner, Bruce Ovbiagele, Sidney C. Smith, Crystal C. Spencer, Randall S. Stafford, Sandra J. Taler, Randal J. Thomas, Kim A. Williams, Jeff D. Williamson, Jackson T. Wright, 2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults: Executive Summary: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Volume 71, Issue 19, 2018, Pages 2199-2269, ISSN 0735-1097, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2017.11.005.
Qamar A and Braunwald E, Treatment of hypertension: Addressing a global health problem. JAMA [JAMA], ISSN: 1538-3598, 2018 Nov 06; Vol. 320 (17), pp. 1751-1752; Publisher: American Medical Association; PMID: 30398610