The World Health Organization estimates that 1.13 billion people across the globe suffer from high blood pressure or hypertension. What’s worse, only 1 out of every 5 patients actually has this problem under control. (1) Because high blood pressure has become a rather common health issue, it is tempting to view it as a minor problem that’s not really a big deal. However, the truth is if hypertension is left untreated, it can lead to a number of complications, some of which are potentially fatal.
So what can you do to make sure that your blood pressure stays under control? Keep reading this article to find out.
What is Hypertension?
To understand hypertension, you must first familiarize yourself with the concept of blood pressure.
Blood pressure refers to the force that the circulating blood exerts on the walls of your arteries. When this pressure gets out of the normal value, a condition called hypertension or high blood pressure occurs.
A blood pressure reading comprises two different numbers. The first number is referred to as the systolic value which indicates the blood pressure within the arteries as your heart is beating. The second value is termed as the diastolic number and represents the pressure within the vessels when your heart rests between two consecutive beats.
Why do you get hypertension at all? The risk factors leading to this problematic issue are of two types.
- Modifiable risk factors are the ones that you can actually work on to resolve them once and for all. These include a sedentary lifestyle, poor dietary habits (like excessive consumption of salt and trans fat), smoking, and a high BMI index.
- Non-modifiable factors or the ones that you can do nothing about. They include factors like having a family history of hypertension, old age, and a co-existing disease such as diabetes.
Why Hypertension Matters
Having high blood pressure seems trivial for some people, but the fact is this health issue can threaten the quality of your life and overall wellness. The damage caused by this issue takes time to show itself and can include the following:
Due to high blood pressure, the arteries supplying the heart muscles may get blocked, eventually leading to a heart attack.
In a similar manner, high blood pressure can damage the blood vessels inside the brain, forcing them to clog. This leads to a reduced blood supply to the neural tissue and trigger a stroke.
When high blood pressure starts affecting the vessels surrounding the kidneys, it directly affects the process of filtration. As a result, kidney failure may occur over time.
Loss of vision
The eye vessels may get strained due to high blood pressure leading to problems with vision.
Erectile dysfunction is an issue that commonly hits males suffering from hypertension. At the same time, it may also decrease libido in women.
How To Lower Blood Pressure Naturally
While there are a number of different medications that target and treat hypertension, most people prefer taking a natural route while they still can. Some natural ways to keep your blood pressure under control have been described below.
#1 - Work out regularly
Everyone knows that regular physical activity is good for the body. Not only can it help you control your blood pressure but it also strengthens your heart, helps you to maintain a healthy body weight, and lowers stress levels.
For keeping hypertension at bay, experts recommend getting 150 minutes of moderate-level exercise per week. (2) You can choose from any type of aerobic exercises like jogging, walking, and dancing. However, it is better to choose an activity that you truly enjoy as it will be easier to perform every week.
#2 - Reduce your sodium intake
A lot of us are consuming too much salt without even realizing it. The recommended daily intake of sodium or table salt is around 2,300 mg whereas the ideal limit is even less than 1,500 mg for those with high blood pressure.
Salt contributes significantly to blood pressure buildup within the arteries, leading to problems like stroke and heart attack. (3) Therefore, it is advised to keep it under control in your diet. For this purpose, the following tips can come in handy.
- Start reading food labels as you shop for groceries to ensure no high-salt food makes it back home.
- Almost 80 percent of the sodium you consume comes from processed foods, so avoid them.
- Only a teaspoon of salt may contain as much as 2,300 mg of sodium which is way beyond its recommended daily value. So try cutting it out of your food as much as possible.
#4 - Get more potassium
Potassium is an extremely important body mineral. Not only can it aid in the regulation of heart rate but also helps counter the effects of excessive sodium. In this way, it eases the tension exerted by the blood on the vessel walls which, in turn, helps lower blood pressure.
The best way to get more potassium is by making dietary adjustments and maximizing the consumption of foods rich in this mineral. Some examples of potassium-rich foods include:
- Milk, cream cheese, and yogurt
- Seeds and nuts
- Veggies like leafy greens and sweet potatoes
- Fish like salmon and tuna
- Fruits, for example, oranges, tomatoes, melons, bananas, and apricots
That said, it is advised to talk to a doctor regarding how much potassium you can safely consume. If you suffer from a kidney issue, consuming too much of this mineral might not be a good idea.
#5 - Cut back on alcohol
Research has shown that consuming moderate levels of alcohol can actually benefit your heart. However, too much of this beverage consumed at once can also cause a spike in your blood pressure. In fact, almost 16% of the worldwide cases of hypertension trace back to excessive intake of alcohol. (4)
Monitoring your alcohol intake is extremely important. This beverage is a rich source of sugar and calories both of which contribute to weight gain and hypertension over time.
If you can't quit alcohol, try limiting its intake to one drink per day. If you are already taking any medication to manage high blood pressure, you have to be extra careful about how much alcohol you consume daily.
Keep in mind that alcohol can also interfere with your blood pressure medicines and reduce their efficacy. So watch out.
#5 - Manage your stress levels
Stress is a common element in everyday life. An approaching deadline, a higher than usual electricity bill, or a flat tire in the middle of the road- all of these and so many more factors keep adding to your stress levels.
This stress can induce a temporary spike in blood pressure. In most cases, the blood pressure normalizes as soon as you get out of the stressful situation. However, if this stress becomes chronic, the hypertensive spikes may stick along for a longer time, leading to various health issues.
While it is impossible to get rid of all stressors, you can try to cope with them in a much healthier way so that your blood pressure remains under control. Some easy ways to cope with stress are explained below:
- Practice gratitude by acknowledging all the positives in your life. This will help you to shift your focus away from the daily stressors and make you more thankful for what you already have.
- Reframe your mindset by thinking about things that are under your control. Quit worrying over situations that you can do nothing about. A lot of time, our stressors and anxieties come from “what if” incidences that may never even occur.
- Prevent yourself from getting exposed to stress triggers. For example, if you have to reach your office for an important meeting at peak rush hour, try leaving a little earlier than usual to avoid being late and experiencing unnecessary stress.
- Always take time out to relax and enjoy life. Take a vacation, read a good book, relax in a hot tub, or listen to music. (5)
#6- Quit smoking
Smoking is one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Even a single puff of a cigarette can cause a mild increase in your blood pressure. Moreover, the chemicals included in a cigarette also carry the potential to harm the blood vessels.
Surprisingly, studies have not been able to find a conclusive link between smoking and hypertension. (6) This might be because smokers tend to develop a tolerance with time. However, experts still recommend quitting smoking as it is still likely to contribute to problems like high blood pressure and heart disease in the long run.
In A Nutshell
Hypertension continues to hit a rising number of people in both developing and developed countries. While most of these people fail to view it as a serious issue, hypertension can induce several life-threatening complications in the body. Controlling it with natural measures and on a timely basis is the only way to ensure a healthy body and a good quality of life.
At the same time, it is important to remember that if you suffer from chronic hypertension, you may need to combine healthy lifestyle interventions like the ones mentioned above with medication prescribed by the doctor.