Dr. Clayton Lawrence, CEO, shares his thoughts in a weekly column focused on overall wellness in an otherwise toxic world. (Always consult with your own physician before beginning any new diet/exercise routine).
Having high blood pressure is one of those things that could potentially just sneak up on a person, but, it also has the potential of causing some serious short-term and long-term health concerns. When left undetected or uncontrolled, high blood pressure could lead to the formation of blood clots and damaged or weakened blood vessels.
The problem is, although there are a few indications that one’s blood pressure has reached an extremely high point – some suggest nose bleeds, headaches or facial flushing – there are often no obvious symptoms until a person experiences a stroke or heart attack. That’s why it is important to be aware of your normal blood pressure and work with your doctor to keep this number within the recommended range (the American Heart Association says less than 120/80).
So what can we, as patients, do to maintain a healthy number without jumping right to long-term medication? Our suggestions are topics that offer a win-win solution, leading to better overall health and wellness. Read on!
Healthier diet with less salt
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet can significantly impact blood pressure when followed on a daily basis. This means adding more fruits, vegetables and grains to the plate, while cutting back on saturated fats and cholesterol. It pays off to create a shopping list before hitting the market and reading labels before adding items to the cart. Be sure to reduce sodium intake by cutting back on processed foods and refraining from adding salt to meals. Too much salt causes the body to store excess fluids, which raises blood pressure.
Regular physical activity has the potential to transform lives. Not only does it keep the muscles – including the heart – in tip-top shape, it also helps to shed unwanted fat, provides more energy and helps us sleep better. But it also has a positive effect on the blood vessels and can assist in lowering elevated blood pressure. Aerobic exercise like swimming, biking, jogging or even dancing around the house can create a stronger heart that works more efficiently to pump blood throughout the arteries with much less force. Although a good workout will temporarily increase blood pressure, it will eventually come back down and over time, decrease elevated numbers.
We live in a world that survives on multi-tasking and adrenaline. We have become a society that rarely relaxes and when we do, we’re quickly back to keeping up with the pace of everyday life. Anxiety and stress can wreak havoc on our bodies in more ways than one, but can certainly cause the blood pressure numbers to creep up over time. When we are under pressure or in a stressful situation, hormones are secreted by the body to help us keep up. These hormones increase the heart rate and cause the blood vessels to narrow, putting more stress on our arteries and ultimately the heart. These consistent levels have the potential to cause a permanent increase in blood pressure levels.
Cut back on caffeine
Do you find yourself unable to function without caffeine? The acute stimulation offered by a cup of coffee can surely give you the surge you need to stay at work a little longer or cram all night for tomorrow’s test, but just like those hormones that are secreted when faced with a stressful situation, the arteries are negatively affected both short- and long-term. Some would argue that those who are used to caffeine rarely experience a spike in blood pressure, but the truth is, there are much healthier ways to get the necessary energy to make it through the day, like getting plenty of sleep, drinking lots of water, exercising, and eating healthy, protein-rich snacks.