Though it often goes unnoticed, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a serious condition. It can lead to many serious complications, such as increasing your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
The best way to prevent your blood pressure from getting too high is to understand the most common causes of hypertension and take the appropriate steps to avoid them. Though this condition is nothing to sneeze at, it’s also entirely manageable and avoidable if you take the right steps to prioritize your health.
This starts with understanding what factors increase your blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure Causes
Hypertension is split into two different types depending on its cause.
Primary hypertension develops slowly over the years. It doesn’t have a singular cause but, instead, is the product of many lifestyle factors taking their toll on the heart and the smooth muscles of the arteries.
Secondary hypertension has a more rapid onset and usually results in higher blood pressure. It can be caused by certain health conditions and certain medications.
Exercise and Diet
Lifestyle factors like a lack of exercise and a poor diet are top contributors to high blood pressure and related conditions such as heart disease. Diets high in sodium and saturated fat are especially harmful if you have blood pressure issues.
Living a healthier lifestyle is the best method to reduce risk factors for many dangerous health conditions. Everyone can benefit from making more nutritious meals and adding routine exercise to their daily habits.
Lots of Stress
A high stress level raises the blood pressure, especially when this stress is sustained for a long time.
At times of high stress, your body produces higher amounts of the hormone epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. This activates your “fight or flight” response, raising your blood pressure and producing a rapid heart rate.
If stress continues for too long, this can cause lasting damage to your heart and your blood vessels.
High blood pressure is a frequent medication side effect. While this is usually only a temporary issue that corrects itself over time, in some cases, it can result in a more permanent form of hypertension.
In addition to some over-the-counter medications, some prescription medications have been linked to high blood pressure. These include decongestants, oral contraceptive pills, and some cold medications.
Other Diseases and Health Conditions
Many health conditions can increase your risk of developing hypertension. Some examples are kidney disease, thyroid issues, congenital blood vessel defects, and sleep apnea.
Additionally, any cause of chronic pain can raise your stress levels, which results in heightened blood pressure.
Prevention of High Blood Pressure
For the most part, prevention is similar to the usual high blood pressure treatments. Since most cases of primary hypertension develop gradually over the years, avoiding unhealthy behaviors is the best way to halt this process. For secondary hypertension, prevention focuses on treating the underlying condition causing higher blood pressure.
Making Healthier Choices
Avoid consuming too much fat and sodium in your diet. Skip takeout whenever possible, and opt for home-cooked meals in which you control the exact ingredients. Be sure to use fresh, healthy components in the preparation of most of your meals.
As for working out, a little bit goes a long way. As little as 30 minutes of light exercise per day can reduce your average blood pressure significantly and improve your overall well-being. Try easy cardio exercises like jogging and jumping jacks, or go for strength training workouts.
A good work-life balance is integral to managing your stress levels and keeping control of your high blood pressure. Take time to relax and cool off after difficult projects at work or big life events, and try to include some relaxing hobbies.
Meditation can also help you alleviate tension effectively. For a one-two punch, combine exercise and stress relief with mindful workouts like yoga and tai chi.
Getting Routine Medical Care
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Nowhere is this more true than in the medical field, where preventative care could save your life.
Most regular check-ups involve checking your blood pressure, so be sure to have an annual physical. If you’re currently experiencing any of the health conditions that increase your risk of developing hypertension, it’s best to address these concerns sooner rather than later.
Speak with your doctor about the best preventative strategy for you.
Food For Thought
The more proactive you are about addressing higher than average blood pressure, the more effective your preventative measures will be.
If you have any high-risk factors, it’s especially important for you to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This means cutting back on stress, eating right, and staying active, as well as getting routine medical care and monitoring your blood pressure.
With careful management of your health, you can keep high blood pressure from harming your well-being.
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I’m excited to talk about this topic today because not only do I truly believe that you have the power to reverse heart disease and lower high blood pressure to improve your health, but the science also agrees! You can adopt healthy lifestyle practices that improve your health and enrich your life, which can in turn improve the lives of those close to you. You have the power to break the cycle of these chronic diseases so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
As you may already know, I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve blood pressure and reverse heart disease. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Tools to Improve Heart Health
Blood Pressure Monitoring
Since weight management is very important in blood pressure control, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor.
Remember, healthy lifestyle behaviors–like eating a whole-foods plant-based diet that is low in sodium, being physically active, and stress management are the best ways to prevent and control high blood pressure. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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