How does hypertension happen?The heart and blood vessels work together. They pump blood throughout the body, delivering every organ and tissue in the body with essential nutrients. High blood pressure occurs as a result of high pressure being exerted on the arteries that carry blood around the body. This is affected by the size of the blood vessels. The wider the blood vessel the lower the pressure. Fatty plaque build ups can narrow the blood vessels and stress can also cause constriction. High blood pressure means that the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body.
How do you know if you have high blood pressure?More often than not there are no obvious warning signs of high blood pressure so it can be difficult to detect. Therefore it is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Some common signs and symptoms may include:
- Excessive perspiration
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Eight simple steps towards healthy blood pressure
- Healthy Diet – The Mediterranean diet is often recommended as it has repeatedly shown to be protective to the heart and blood vessels. Include plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, wholegrains, lean meat, garlic, nuts, legumes, cold water fish(rich in omega-3) and olive oil into your daily diet.
- Exercise – An increase in exercise can actually lower blood pressure by as much as 10 mmHg. It can also help to prevent your blood pressure from rising with age. Exercise tones both the heart and the blood vessels. Afterall, we need exercise to keep our muscles strong and the heart is our most important muscle. There are lots of ways to increase exercise levels. If work is an excuse, try getting off the bus a stop earlier or taking the stairs instead of the lifts at work and at railway stations. Aim for 30 minutes per day.
- Stress Management and Relaxation – Today’s busy working and study lifestyle is resulting in stress being a common occurrence even for people in their late teens and early twenties. Stress increases blood pressure and decreases the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. It can also contribute to the breakdown of muscle and increase fat gain. Find a relaxation technique that suits your lifestyle and take time every day to relax. Some suggestions include yoga, meditation, tai chi, qi gong, reading a good book, laughing with friends, or a favourite hobby.
- Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight – Being overweight is a major contributing factor to high blood pressure. It is possible to reduce blood pressure by 1 mmHG per 1 kilogram of body weight. That alone is a great incentive for losing weight.
- Reduce salt intake – this can be easily obtained by increasing fresh fruit and vegetable intake and removing processed foods from the diet. Learning to read the Nutritional Panel showing the sodium content can help you calculate the amount of daily salt intake. Healthy salt target is no more than 4 grams per day.
- Replace saturated fats with omega-3s.
- Limit alcohol intake to no more than one standard drink per day.
- Include quality supplements: magnesium, quercetin, taurine, Hawthorn, garlic, fish oil.