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High blood pressure (hypertension) is known as the “silent killer” in medical circles. This is not hyperbole. Hypertension kills more people than nearly any other condition and until serious symptoms like heart attack, embolism, or stroke. To make matters more serious, it can be painfully difficult to spot. That is, unless you get your blood pressure monitored regularly. Regular check ups are easy, non-invasive, are not painful, and could save your life.
According to the American Heart Association, as many as 1 in 3 American adults have what is considered high blood pressure. By some estimates, only half of those people have their blood pressure under control. Uncontrolled high blood pressure substantially increases the patient’s risk of developing diabetes, having a stroke and heart disease. Heart disease is the second largest killer in the United States and the largest killer worldwide.
Blood pressure is measured by systolic pressure and diastolic pressure.
Normal blood pressure is considered a value of less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic.
Elevated blood pressure is considered a systolic pressure of between 120 and 129 and diastolic blood pressures of less than 80. This is on the way to being considered high blood pressure. It would be seen as a cause for concern by a physician.
High blood pressure, or Stage 1 hypertension, is a systolic pressure of between 130 and 139 and a diastolic pressure of between 80 and 89.
Stage 2 hypertension is a systolic pressure of 140 and a diastolic pressure of 90 or higher.
A hypertensive crisis is a systolic pressure of more than 180 and a diastolic pressure of more than 120. If you have blood pressure readings in this range, please call the emergency services immediately. A medical professional who will be able to read and understand blood pressure readings can help you.
Only a qualified medical professional can diagnose hypertension. It will require two or more readings to asses the top and bottom numbers on different days to properly evaluate the blood pressure. Devices like portable fitness trackers or EEGs can help get a firmer diagnosis. The more data, the better.
If you are concerned that you or someone else may have what is considered high blood pressure, there are plenty of options for you to discuss and try to help them lower blood pressure into healthy bounds.
Prevention is much better than trying to cure hypertension. You might have family members with hypertension, and if so, you are at higher risk of developing the condition yourself. Smoking and obesity are two of the major causes of hypertension, so by keeping fit and stopping smoking (or not starting in the first place), you drastically reduce the chances of developing hypertension.
Many of the things that prevent hypertension are successful at treating the condition.
A well balanced diet that is low in sugars and especially salt is known to be a major contributing factor for cardiovascular health. A heart healthy diet should include:
To limit the likelihood of developing hypertension, limiting certain foods is known to help. Lowering levels of sodium is probably the most effective tool for lowering blood pressure. Avoiding saturated and trans fats is also very helpful. Red meats are thought to raise blood pressure, as are sugary snacks.
Eating healthily can be very satisfying and you can develop a newfound relationship with your body that is worth more than anything. Pay attention to food labelling and try to buy and eat as much fresh and unprocessed food as possible.
By exercising, you are improving the fitness of your heart muscles and therefore helping it to remain healthy. The entire cardiovascular system benefits from regular exercise, as does the brain.
Exercise also helps to regulate stress. Stress is one of the biggest causes of hypertension and by helping to keep your body fit, you reduce your stress levels and the body’s response to stress. This keeps your body and mind healthy.
Inactivity is deadly. People who do not exercise regularly, or even walk much, are at a far higher risk of dying of stroke or heart failure. Improving your fitness is much more effective at preventing hypertension than simple weight loss.
30 minutes of moderate exercise (brisk walking, swimming etc) a day should keep you fit. At least an hour and a half of dynamic resistance or/and aerobic exercise a week will maintain fitness in most people. If you are unused to exercise, please make sure you start your exercise regime with someone who can guide you through it to prevent injury and make it enjoyable.
Stress is a modern killer. The effects of stress are pervasive, long lasting, and often lead to heart disease and ill health. When the body is stressed, it raises the levels of inflammation in the body and causes certain processes that are very useful in the short term (for running away from big scary animals, for example) but not so useful in the long term. A healthy lifestyle with a good work/life balance is one of the hardest things to achieve but if you can manage it, it could save your life.
Smoking is bad for you in every way (no, it does not make you look cool either). It is also one of the highest risk factors when it comes to high blood pressure. Quitting is obviously very good for you but is easier to say than to do. There are lots of support groups around and treatments available.
These tips should help you to prevent developing high blood pressure. However, trying your best to prevent it isn’t enough. No matter what lifestyle you live, getting your blood pressure checked regularly is absolutely crucial to living a long and happy life.