Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the world’s number one silent killer.
In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated 22 percent of the global population suffer from high blood pressure. The good news is that hypertension is manageable:
1. Take It Seriously.
Hypertension is a chronic disease. It leads to serious consequences such as heart attacks, strokes, brain damage and the failure of numerous organs. Symptoms of high blood pressure are very often non-specific, unnoticeable or completely absent.
You have to look for signs such as headaches (especially in the forehead region), poor balance, chest pain, feelings of breathlessness, buzzing in the ears, and fast or irregular heart rate.
You should monitor your blood pressure regularly — if you don’t have a history of high blood pressure, it’s sufficient to take a few precautions and often this can be done without the need to see your doctor. If you have had a hypertension diagnosis, you can purchase a digital blood pressure monitor and check your pressure on a daily basis.
Tip: If you’re concerned about your blood pressure and don’t want the stress of going to a doctor, why not get your own home monitor kit?
Blood pressure readings have two numbers, for example 120/80 mmHg. The first number relates to your systolic blood pressure — the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats and pushes the blood around the body. The second number relates to your diastolic blood pressure — the pressure when your heart relaxes between beats.
Your age and gender will affect your blood pressure and its effects on your health. A study published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease in 2013 explored the differences in cardio vascular disease between men and women. It found that due to physiologic and hormonal differences, women with high blood pressure are at higher risk of cardio-vascular disease than men who have the same elevated levels of blood pressure.
When you get older, your chances of developing high blood pressure increase. Over time, blood vessels become less flexible and plaque builds up on artery walls, making it more difficult for the heart to pump blood around your body. The latest guidelines for the Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2014, states blood pressure treatment should be considered for adults over 60 who have a reading of 150/90 mmHg or higher.
2. It’s All About Lifestyle.
Hypertension is largely preventable. In the vast majority of cases, lifestyle changes are sufficient to reduce blood pressure to normal levels. You can find a lot of information on the web, but you will often forget it the moment you close your browser, so I always keep it simple and tell my patients to remember three things:
- Eat Healthy. Say yes to fruits and vegetables, but no to salt, sugar, fatty and fast food. Reduce coffee and give up cigarettes. One coffee a day is okay. If you want definite guidelines to an anti-hypertension diet, check out the famous DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and is based on choosing foods that are low in saturated fat and high in vitamins and minerals. The DASH diet includes plenty of fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grains, poultry and fish.
- Be Fit. Workout regularly and lose some weight. Research shows that exercise reduces high blood pressure.
- Chill Out. When you are stressed your blood pressure skyrockets. Try to avoid stress as much as possible. If you can’t, try to remain calm. There are many breathing techniques that promote a peaceful state of mind and can help you to relax. If you feel yourself getting tense or angry, focus on your breathing. Take several long, slow, deep breaths, focusing on releasing any tension you may be feeling, in the out breath.
3. Monitor Yourself.
Hypertension is silent, so you have to listen closely. If you suspect you might suffer from it, ask your doctor to check. If your doctor diagnoses you with hypertension, he or she will suggest you get a blood pressure monitor to use in your own home. It’s easy, fast and painless. It’s good practice to measure your blood pressure every time you notice some of the previously mentioned signs. Note down the values and show them to your doctor; this is useful information that will help him or her suggest the best treatment for you.
4. More Than One Treatment Option
There are numerous medicines for treating hypertension which have been proven effective and safe. However, all medicines have side effects and some can be difficult to manage; in some rare cases these side effects can even be lethal. Speak to your doctor about your treatment plan.
The good news is that there are also natural ways to lower your blood pressure:
- Research has shown that garlic reduces blood pressure and even reduces the levels of cholesterol in the blood. If you don’t like the taste of garlic, you can find odorless capsules in most health food stores.
- Omega 3 fats are effective in reducing high blood pressure. Good sources of Omega 3 include oily fish, flax seeds and walnuts. You can also buy a fish oil supplement.
- Cocoa has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Choose varieties with minimal sugar, such as dark chocolate or raw chocolate. Alternatively, you can take cacao extract as a supplement.
Remember hypertension is a serious disease but also a manageable one. By making small changes to your lifestyle, you can lower your blood pressure and improve your health. Are you ready to begin your hypertension takedown?References