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It’s called “the silent killer”. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, comes without any recognisable symptoms unless your numbers are dangerously high. If you are taken aback when your doctor announces that your systolic and diastolic readings are elevated, you can view this information as the silver lining behind the cloud.
Why?: This is the cue to take control of your own life, and reduce your blood pressure to healthy levels.
Let’s take a look at a few simple measures you can choose to lower your blood pressure.
Take your medication seriously. Make sure that you or your doctor check your blood pressure regularly. Hypertension medication comes in many different forms, so if your blood pressure is resistant to a particular pill, a different prescription or mixture of medicines may be required.
When you begin to internalise positive lifestyle changes that are lowering your blood pressure readings, this would be a good time to discuss with your doctor the possibility of moving away from medication.
Even if you are taking medication to reduce your hypertension, introducing exercise into your daily activities is still hugely beneficial. Exercise strengthens the heart muscle, which reduces stress on the arteries, resulting in lower blood pressure.
The fitness program most used by most experts and recommended by the NHS can be planned as follows:
- Aerobic: A total of 150 minutes aerobic exercise each week will result in a drop in your blood pressure. Try 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or if that doesn’t work with your schedule, distribute your 150 minutes throughout the week. You can choose swimming, walking, dancing, cycling, or aerobic fitness classes. Be sure to pick activities that you enjoy.
- Strength training: Strength training, twice a week, lowers hypertension when combined with aerobic exercise. Try weight machines, dumbbells, or resistance bands. Repetitive lifting with resistance will go a long way towards reducing your high blood pressure.
Tip: Consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Two aspects of diet are of concern if you have been diagnosed with hypertension:
- Unhealthy eating
In other words, what you eat is important for your heart and artery health, and controlling how much you eat will help to lower your blood pressure.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Most of us know what we should do but still struggle with healthy eating. Yes, we know that we should not indulge in too much salt, sugar, trans fats, and simple carbohydrates. We are aware of healthy food choices, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins. But how do we motivate ourselves?
Pick an eating style that is comfortable for you. Two diets that come recommended for treating high blood pressure are the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (D.A.S.H.) Plan, and the Mediterranean Diet. There are differences between the two diets, but both feature wholesome, colourful recipes. Many doctors now recommend these diets, so you can discuss the two approaches with your doctor or a dietitian to see which one suits your particular situation and your preferences.
Stress is the most challenging trigger to control when you are trying to reduce hypertension. If you do succeed in de-stressing, this will also serve to keep you away from other triggers that push blood pressure into abnormal levels, for example, cigarettes and alcohol.
Stress affects people in different ways. Some individuals thrive on work pressures and deadlines, but cannot cope at home. Many commuters become disgruntled in heavy traffic, while others enjoy long heavy-traffic trips in buses, trains, or their own vehicles.
Each person must determine what pushes the stress buttons in their life and take measures to remove those stressors, even if it requires a compromise or two.
If your circumstances cannot be easily altered, try some tension-relieving activities, such as:
- Yoga, meditation, guided imagery
- Reading, listening to music
- Socialising, dining out
Tip: Life coaches and therapists are excellent sources for help with organisational skills and anxieties.
The above suggestions are not isolated tips. They work together to provide a holistic approach to controlling your blood pressure and your general health. Aim high, but don’t take unrealistic steps to get there. Baby steps, taken slowly and surely, will help you reach your goal.