High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is precisely what it sounds like: the pressure of your blood flowing through your veins gets too high, putting a strain on your circulatory system. According to the CDC, many doctors diagnose high blood pressure when it reaches 130/80 mm Hg or above.
This is a common problem that affects nearly half of adults in the United States, and it was a leading cause of nearly half a million deaths in 2018. Hypertension can lead to strokes, vision loss, heart attacks, and even heart failure. That's not something you want to ignore. Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to help reduce your risk of high blood pressure and prevent hypertension.
Watching what you eat can do a lot to help reduce your blood pressure. Here are a few ways that minor changes to your diet can help keep it in check.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it's a good idea to limit your daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg or less. That's the amount of sodium found in just a single teaspoon of salt. Start with easy steps like seasoning more with spices rather than salt and reading food labels to check how much sodium lurks in processed foods, opting for the lowest numbers you find.
Studies have shown that the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet can have a significant impact on reducing blood pressure in conjunction with reducing sodium. DASH involves incorporating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your daily intake while you work to cut out saturated fats.
That means you may want to skip the greasy bacon and high-fat dairy products like whole milk and cheese, while you bulk up your diet with oatmeal, whole grain bread, and hefty helpings of fruit and salad. Don't worry if this seems overwhelming – talking with your primary care physician about your lifestyle and dietary restrictions can help you formulate a plan that's tailored to you and will work with your life.
If you're overweight, losing even a few pounds can do a whole lot to decrease your blood pressure. And if you tend to carry extra weight around your midsection, reducing inches at your waistline may help as well. Regular exercise has benefits beyond just weight loss. By making your heart stronger through regular activity, you can reduce your blood pressure almost as much as by taking some blood pressure medications, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Of course, every individual is different, with different needs. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before you start a new exercise regimen. But in general, taking on some light aerobic activity like walking, jogging, and living room dance parties can help you work towards moderating your blood pressure.
High blood pressure is frequently referred to as the silent killer, because it often goes unrecognized, showing no symptoms. That's why regular testing is vital to your health. Even though you might not feel any effects day-to-day, high blood pressure damages your circulatory system over time.
It's important to catch hypertension early. Regular testing through your primary care provider can help keep you healthy and thriving, alerting you to changes in your blood pressure in time to make changes, whether that's in diet, exercise, or medication. Fortunately, measuring your blood pressure is simple and painless, and it's easy to schedule a quick test at one of CHP's local clinics.
If you have questions about your blood pressure numbers, lifestyle changes that can help your health, or how to get your blood pressure tested, CHP's healthcare providers are here to help. Get in touch today to make an appointment.