Blood pressure indicates the amount of pressure exerted by blood on the walls of the blood vessels. When the pressure is high, the heart has to work harder to pump blood to the organs. In case of healthy individuals, the blood pressure reading is 120/80 mm Hg. While the value of 120 refers to the systolic pressure, the value of 80 refers to the diastolic pressure. When the systolic pressure is consistently within 120-139 mm Hg, and the diastolic pressure is within 80-89 mm Hg, one is diagnosed with prehypertension. Hypertension is divided into two stages. In stage 1, the systolic pressure lies between 140 mm Hg and 159 mm Hg, and diastolic pressure is between 90 mm Hg and 99 mm Hg. In stage 2, the systolic pressure and diastolic pressure lie above 160 mm Hg and 100 mm Hg, respectively. When the systolic pressure is higher than 180 mm Hg, and diastolic pressure is higher than 110 mm Hg, one is diagnosed with hypertensive crisis.
If the blood pressure levels are consistently high, it can make one susceptible to various health ailments such as heart attack, kidney failure, stroke, eye problems, peripheral artery disease, etc. Therefore, measures must be immediately taken to restore blood pressure to normal.
Preventive Measures for Hypertension
Risk factors for hypertension include smoking, alcoholism, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, excessive consumption of salt, stress, old age, family history, etc. Following a healthy lifestyle can help control blood pressure. Here are lifestyle modification techniques or habits that you should incorporate in your daily routine to normalize your blood pressure levels.
Practice Deep Breathing
Breathing is an involuntary action, which is why we often ignore our breathing pattern. When we are under stress, we take short, shallow breaths, using our shoulders instead of the diaphragm to move air in and out of the lungs. This is not a proper way to breathe. Yoga, meditation, Tai chi, etc., are some practices that help us control our breathing pattern. These allow us to breathe using the diaphragm, while keeping the upper chest still, and ensuring that the lungs to inflate and deflate with air properly. Such deep breathing exercises improve oxygenation of blood and promote relaxation, which in turn lowers the risk of hypertension.
Consume Dark Chocolate
Some studies suggest that consuming small amounts of dark chocolate could cause a slight decrease in the blood pressure. Certain antioxidants and chemicals present in the dark chocolate seem to have a calming effect, and help dilate the blood vessels. However, consume dark chocolate in moderation, and avoid the ones that are loaded with sugars.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity is a risk factor for several serious medical conditions, including hypertension. Therefore, it's advisable to lose those extra pounds. Also, an expanding waistline also puts you at a greater risk of developing hypertension. The risk is higher in men and women whose waist size is more than 40 and 35 inches, respectively. So, get rid of excess weight, and follow an exercise regimen regularly to maintain a healthy weight. Do avoid food items that contribute to weight gain.
Reduce the Intake of Sodium
Our kidneys use the process of osmosis, which involves a balance of sodium and potassium, to remove excess water from the blood. When a person consumes a diet that has excess sodium, the balance gets disturbed. Thus, amount of water in the blood increases, which in turn increases the pressure exerted by blood on the walls of the blood vessels. The recommended daily intake of sodium is about 2,400 milligrams, which is about a teaspoon of table salt. Therefore, one should cut down on the intake of processed foods as they are loaded with salt and other preservatives. Do read the labels before you buy processed foods from the supermarket.
Reduce Caffeine Intake
It has been observed that caffeine causes a temporary spike in blood pressure. It's advisable to monitor your blood pressure within 30-120 minutes after the consumption of caffeinated drinks. If your blood pressure increases, limit the intake of coffee, tea, and aerated drinks. It is advisable to substitute caffeinated drinks with herbal tea.
Stress causes anxiety, which can make you susceptible to high blood pressure. Therefore, you must always try to reduce the stress levels by following a healthy lifestyle. Spare some time daily for meditation, yoga, or music. Pursue a hobby that relaxes you. Don't let your pent-up anger, worries, or other negative emotions have an adverse effect on your health. Share your concerns and problems with friends and loved ones.
Avoid Smoking and Drinking
Smoking and consumption of alcohol are both risk factors for a host of ailments. They have the same effect on you as caffeine. If you smoke and drink regularly, you are susceptible to hypertension. So, try to cut down on their intake initially. Thereafter, make efforts to abstain from alcohol and smoking.
On a concluding note, following a healthy lifestyle can help prevent hypertension. So, do follow the aforementioned measures to stay healthy.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.