When I begin to work with a new wellness client high blood pressure is one of the most common concerns that arises. Whether the client is experiencing the affects of high blood pressure or whether they are concerned about their family history it is a topic that doesn’t get overlooked. High blood pressure also known as hypertension can be a serious health risk. It makes the heart work harder to pump blood out to the body and can also damage blood vessels, harden arteries and increase the risk of having a stroke or heart attack
It is important to know that you can have high blood pressure for years without any symptoms. Even without the symptoms damage can be occurring. Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms. For this reason it is important to have regular check ups with your doctor.
Follow these simple lifestyle tips to help keep your blood pressure in a healthy range while reducing your chances of getting heart disease or needing to be on medications.
- Quit smoking. Smoking immediately increases your blood pressure. Also the chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls causing them to narrow which can increase blood pressure. Ask a friend or family member to join you, as this will make quitting easier. There are also many resources available to support you such as medications, nicotine patches as well as support groups.
- Reduce or eliminate the following: canned foods as they are high in sodium, saturated fats, processed foods, salt, sugar, alcohol and caffeine. Read food labels, as this will be a real eye opener. As a father of four I often include my children when food shopping. We are always surprised at what we find hidden on the labels. It’s an excellent way to educate and make your children aware of what they are eating.
- Exercise daily for 30 minutes. Here is another great opportunity to include a friend or family member to increase your chances for success. Choose an activity you enjoy such as walking, swimming, running, cycling, strength training, etc. It is important to be consistent as blood pressure can increase if you stop exercising. Exercise can help you maintain and/or lose weight. Managing your weight is one of the most important factors in controlling blood pressure as blood pressure typically increases as your weight increases.
- Reduce stress. Chronic stress is another important factor leading to high blood pressure. Many things such as work, family, finances, and health can all contribute. It is important to identify what may be creating stress for you and either eliminate it or work to reduce it. Sit quietly and write down what might be stressing you, if there is something you can do about it then decide what action you will take. Also, create down time to meditate, breath and consciously calm yourself. When you first wake up or before bedtime are ideal times to practice meditation and breathing. Allow more time in your schedule to get things done and set realistic expectations and goals. If someone causes stress in your life plan to spend less time with him or her.
- Choose to eat healthy foods such as whole grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice, etc.), fruits (bananas, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.) and vegetables (fresh greens such as spinach, broccoli, kale and romaine lettuce are high in potassium which can help the body get rid of sodium which in turn can lower blood pressure. Be more conscious when buying food and consider new healthy food options.
Remember, most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms. Be proactive and periodically test your blood pressure at a local pharmacy or decide to buy your own monitor. Also schedule at least one physical exam each year. Be sure to share this information with family and friends to insure they are doing their part to reduce their chances of having high blood pressure or getting heart disease.
Note: Please consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise or nutrition program