High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a condition in which the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high. The ideal blood pressure is ranked between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg. Meanwhile, high blood pressure is either 140/90mmHg or higher and is considered severe if the pressure is above 180/120.
Hypertension typically develops over the course of several years. Usually, you don’t notice any symptoms, which is why it is often nicknamed a silent killer as even without symptoms, it can cause damage to blood vessels and organs, especially the brain, heart, eyes, and kidneys.
It may take years or even decades for the condition to reach levels severe enough that symptoms become obvious.
Even then, these symptoms may be attributed to other issues. Symptoms of severe hypertension can include headaches, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, flushing, dizziness, chest pain, visual changes, blood in the urine.
These symptoms require immediate medical attention. They do not occur in everyone with hypertension, but waiting for a symptom of this condition to appear could be fatal. The best way to know if you have hypertension is to get a regular blood pressure reading.
Treatment for hypertension includes both prescription medication and healthy lifestyle changes. If the condition isn’t treated, it could lead to health issues, including heart attack and stroke.
Here are some healthy lifestyle changes that can help you manage hypertension:
Developing a healthy diet
A heart-healthy diet is vital for helping to reduce high blood pressure. It’s also important for managing hypertension that is under control and reducing the risk of complications.
A heart-healthy diet emphasises foods that include: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins like fish. Junk and processed food should be avoided at all costs. Your diet should also include the three vital nutrients to manage high blood pressure; potassium, magnesium and calcium.
Lower the intake of salt
Excessive salt in your diet is a major risk factor for hypertension. Thus, lowering your sodium intake is important as sodium increases blood pressure by causing the body to retain excess fluid. This puts the burden on your heart and puts more pressure on your blood vessels.
Manage your weight
Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight can also cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnoea), which further raises your blood pressure.
Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes in controlling blood pressure. Losing even a small amount of weight if you’re overweight or obese can help reduce your blood pressure. In general, you may reduce your blood pressure by about 1 millimetre of mercury (mm Hg) with each kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of weight you lose.
Limit alcohol intake
Even drinking too much alcohol can lead to an increase in blood pressure. Limiting the intake of alcohol can reduce high blood pressure. This will be a significant lifestyle change for people suffering from high blood pressure.
The nicotine in cigarette smoke is a big part of the problem. It raises your blood pressure and heart rate, narrows your arteries and hardens their walls, and makes your blood more likely to clot. It stresses your heart and sets you up for a heart attack or stroke.
Regular physical activity
Regular physical activity — such as 150 minutes a week, or about 30 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. Cardiovascular, or aerobic exercise can help lower your blood pressure and strengthen your heart. Examples include walking, jogging, jumping rope, bicycling (stationary or outdoor), cross-country skiing, skating, rowing, high- or low-impact aerobics, swimming, and water aerobics.
Your body produces a surge of hormones when you’re in a stressful situation. These hormones temporarily increase your blood pressure by causing your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow.
There is no proof that stress by itself causes long-term hypertension. But reacting to stress in unhealthy ways can increase your risk of hypertension. To reduce stress, engage in activities such as yoga and meditation, simplify your schedule and get plenty of sleep.