Estimates say that approximately 65 million Americans and 7 million Canadians suffer from high blood pressure. Disturbing as these numbers are, what’s actually scarier is that of those, 28% in the US and 19% in Canada are completely unaware they have high blood pressure. Why is this? In and of itself, high blood pressure shows no symptoms until threat of stroke or heart attack is imminent.
There are a few risk factors for hypertension, some of which you can control and others you have no control over.
• Too much sodium
Makes you want to run out and test yours, doesn’t it? But what if you are diagnosed with either pre-hypertension (blood pressure between 120/80 and 140/90) or worse, hypertension (greater than 140/90)?
Apart from the fact that you can lower it naturally, the side effects associated with medication designed to lower blood pressure are myriad, including:
• Leg cramps
• Increase in urination
Those don’t sound like so much fun, do they? Well, they’re also not necessary, not when you actually have far more control than you may believe. While you can’t do much about your ethnicity and your heredity, by making some lifestyle changes, you can make huge strides in lowering your blood pressure.
Losing weight opens up so many new health doors for you. It will lower your risk of diabetes, cancer, take stress off your bones, your organs and improve your blood circulation, which your heart will love!
If you love deep-fried foods, lots of salt and meat, first thing you will want to do is cut all of those way down. If you eat a lot of processed foods, which is essentially most things that you haven’t cooked yourself that you bought frozen or preserved some other way, and then heated up in the microwave, you are eating far more sodium (salt) than you need. By cooking your own food and reducing your sodium intake to no more than 1300 mg a day, your blood pressure will drop dramatically.
Myriad studies suggest a link between reducing sodium and increasing potassium results in significantly lowered blood pressure. Before you pop a supplement, consider foods that are rich in potassium:
Meat, red meat in particular, is difficult on your body to process. It makes your intestines and organs work harder and can clog arteries and raise blood pressure. Eating lean cuts, such as white meat chicken, and fish are better for your overall health.
Wine and Dark Chocolate
Containing flavanols, which improves cardiovascular health by making blood vessels more elastic, studies have shown a marked decrease in blood pressure when patients added dark (not milk or white) chocolate to their diets. ½ an ounce a day will keep the cardiologist away.
Wine offers so many benefits, when consumed in moderation, that it’s difficult to tout them all. It helps food digest more easily, which puts less stress on organs, intestines and blood circulation; it reduces stress, and it opens blood vessels. Two glasses a day, preferably with dinner, is the standard recommendation.
Get Off the Couch
There is no downside to exercising. It will help you lose weight, increase blood circulation, get your heart pumping, aid in digestion and help you sleep better. Here’s the thing about exercise: do what makes you happy. Don’t take part in the latest fad, do what makes you want to get out and do it again. Hiking, biking, swimming, walking, running, pilates, yoga, tai chi, martial arts, the options are limitless. Try something. If you like it, do it again. But if you force your body to do something your brain didn’t find stimulating, you won’t do it again.
The Health Local Staff is a team of writers and experts dedicated to bringing you the latest health, nutrition and lifestyle information at www.healthlocal.ca.