If you suddenly find yourself with high blood pressure (hypertension) under the new guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, you might be wondering what to do. The guidelines, which were released in November, lowered the definition for high blood pressure to 130/80 from 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), meaning more women now meet the criteria for stage 1 hypertension.
Blood pressure is a measurement of the force that blood applies to your arterial walls as it pumps from your heart throughout your body. It also represents how hard your heart is working to push the blood. When blood pressure is higher, it means the heart must work harder to push blood through your system. In turn, the risk of heart disease or heart attack increases.
Stress hormones constrict your blood vessels and can lead to temporary spikes in blood pressure. In addition, over time, stress can trigger unhealthy habits that put your cardiovascular health at risk. These might include overeating, poor sleep, and misusing drugs and alcohol. For all these reasons, reducing stress should be a priority if you're looking to lower your blood pressure.
2) Cayenne pepper. Arguably one of the fastest foods to lower blood pressure, cayenne pepper is a powerful vasodilator, which means it helps expand blood vessels and improve blood flow. This effect naturally lowers blood pressure levels by increasing the rate at which blood flows throughout the circulatory system, which in turn takes some of the pressure off arterial walls.
While you shouldn't shrug off the change, there's also no need to panic. "Obviously, nothing happened overnight inside a woman's body or to her health with the release of the guidelines," says Dr. Naomi Fisher, director of hypertension service and hypertension innovation at the Brigham and Women's Hospital Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Hypertension, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Get moving at least a little bit every day, with a standard recommendation of 30-60 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week. Get your heart pumping at a moderate intensity for a few times a week, and mix it up with some strength training. Because life happens, on the days when you can’t fit it in, try to build more activity into your day by parking further away, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or even just doing a quick sprint or two up and down the block. Every little bit helps.
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