Perhaps you’ve never given much thought to your blood pressure, especially if it’s been spot on for most of your life. But as you get older and deal with more stressful aspects of in life, it can affect your blood pressure. Maybe not quite high enough to require medication, but it may be something to keep an eye on it. And this can affect even those who eat well, exercise most days, and do all the right things to stay healthy.
Groundbreaking research published in 1998 in the journal Diabetes reported that nearly two-thirds of the test subjects who were insulin resistant (IR) also had high blood pressure, and insulin resistance is directly attributable to a high sugar, high grain diet, especially if accompanied by inadequate exercise. So, chances are that if you have hypertension, you also have poorly controlled blood sugar levels, because these two problems often go hand in hand.
High blood pressure is a silent killer that can cause damage throughout the body while going completely undetected. According to the CDC, 75 million, or 1 in 3, American adults have high blood pressure. Yet, only about half of those have their condition well-managed. Unfortunately, when not kept under control, high blood pressure can contribute to some very serious health concerns including heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Chronic hypertension causes the arteries throughout a patient’s body to become damaged and can lead to additional complications that may yield fatal consequences, especially when left untreated. One study noted that there is a significant increase in the risk for coronary artery disease and stroke amongst people who have elevated or high blood pressure. The study also noted that developing this condition at a younger age seems to hold an opportunity for more risks.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension (See blood pressure chart below) is called the “silent killer” for a reason — there are no obvious symptoms but it can result in heart attack, stroke and even death. The good news is there’s a lot you can do to maintain healthy blood pressure or get back to one, often without the need for medications.
When your blood pressure rises, your heart is working harder to pump blood to the rest of your body. This may lead to heart failure or a heart attack, especially in people with heart disease. Furthermore, the extra force exerted by blood may cause blood vessels to burst, resulting in bleeding. Blood vessels in the brain are especially likely to rupture, which can lead to a stroke.
A healthy diet is the first step in regaining control of high blood pressure, but don’t let the term “diet” fool you. This is a lifelong commitment to healthy eating. Based on the approach known as the DASH diet (dietary approaches to stop hypertension), patients should focus on consuming lean protein, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and low-fat dairy. By doing so, systolic blood pressure (the top number) could be reduced by as much as 14 points. Of course, what isn’t included is nearly as important as what is when it comes to a healthy diet. Those with high blood pressure should also focus on keeping salt and sugar intake to a minimum.
Reduce the stress in your life. Long-term stress can lead to high blood pressure. There are small lifestyle changes you can make to both combat stress and to manage the effects of it in healthy ways. Exercise, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, practicing yoga, meditation, or deep breathing, meditating, praying, journaling, laughing, listening to music, spending time with family and friends, and playing with animals can all help reduce your stress and lower blood pressure. Learn about more tips for reducing stress.
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