Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure (BP), is a medical condition due to which the blood pressure in the arteries rises continuously. This persistently high blood pressure may lead to various complicated medical conditions such as heart disease and kidney failure, eventually leading to significant lifestyle problems.
Normal blood pressure range
Blood pressure is expressed as the measurement of two numbers, in the form of a fraction and the unit of measurement is ‘mm Hg’, representing millimeters of mercury.
Systolic – it represents the pressure in the arteries during contraction
Diastolic – it represents the pressure when the heart muscle is between beats
For a normal reading in an adult, the pressure must be below 120/80 mm Hg but above 90/60 mm Hg. When your systolic and diastolic pressures are measured within this specified range, it is considered to be normal and does not require any medical intervention. However, you must adopt a healthier lifestyle to keep it within the normal bp range.
In case your blood pressure is above the given range, the condition is called hypertension. If it is below the specified range, the condition is called hypotension. Both of these situations are bad for your health and require medical attention at the earliest.
The dangers of high blood pressure
Hypertension is a serious lifestyle ailment with possibly fatal outcomes. Therefore, it becomes necessary to seek medical help to keep the situation under control. There are three stages of hypertension that you must be aware of:
If your blood pressure falls between 130-139/80-89 mm Hg, you are suffering from stage 1 hypertension. If your readings are in this range, then you might not have hypertension. It could be a result of some other factors such as age, weight, etc. It may require medication along with lifestyle changes, under the guidance of a doctor or a certified professional, to manage the condition.
If your blood pressure measures 140/90 or higher, you are suffering from stage 2 hypertension. In this situation, medication, along with lifestyle changes, is advised.
If your blood pressure measures above 180/110 mm Hg, it is a serious health problem and is termed a hypertensive crisis. Even if there are no additional symptoms, this condition requires urgent medical care. Your doctor would ideally take two measurements within a few minutes to confirm the hypertensive crisis and then administer the required treatment.
What causes High Blood Pressure?
There are types of hypertension, and they have their own causes.
1. Primary Hypertension
In this case, there is no identifiable cause of high blood pressure levels among adults. This type of hypertension, called primary or essential hypertension, develops gradually over the years.
2. Secondary Hypertension
Secondary hypertension is caused by an underlying condition. In this case, the blood pressure levels rise suddenly, and can they become higher than primary hypertension levels. Secondary hypertension can be caused by various conditions and medications. Some of them are:
- Kidney problems
- Thyroid problems
- Adrenal gland tumors
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Certain birth defects in blood vessels and the heart
- Certain medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, painkillers, decongestants, and some prescription drugs
- Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines
- Alcohol abuse and chronic use
High blood pressure symptoms
There are several ways to identify a spike in pressure levels. A few of these symptoms are listed below:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- visual changes
- blood in the urine
How to Control High Blood Pressure?
Hypertension is often called ‘a silent killer’ because it does not show any symptoms unless the heart or other vital organs see some significant damage. Most people are not aware of this medical condition since they do not observe the symptoms right away. Therefore, it becomes necessary to monitor your blood pressure regularly and seek medical attention if it goes beyond the normal range.
One must consume hypertension medicines regularly. There is no permanent cure for the ailment, and the medicines can only keep it under control. As such, it becomes essential that you follow a healthy lifestyle to regulate your blood pressure without any medical intervention and keep it within the normal range.
Here are a few lifestyle changes that you must incorporate into your daily routine in order to keep hypertension in check:
1. Exercise regularly
Incorporate a regular exercise routine in daily life. By exercising for 45-60 minutes every day, you can cut down on many potential health problems such as hypertension, heart ailments, diabetes, etc. and lead a healthy lifestyle. Even a regular morning walk would make a significant difference. Incorporating Yoga and meditation into your daily exercise routine can also play a major role in keeping hypertension away.
2. Eat healthy
Eating healthy goes a long way in regulating blood pressure and also keeping your body healthy. You must increase the intake of healthy foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, etc. and cut down on fatty foods such as processed foods, fatty meats, desserts, soft drinks, etc.
3. Keep an eye on your weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial to controlling your blood pressure. So, you should keep an eye on the weight scale and ensure that you maintain a healthy BMI. You should also look out for excess fat around your waist as it can lead to various lifestyle problems. Ideally, men should maintain their waist below 40 inches, and women should aim for less than 35 inches.
4. Reduce consumption of Alcohol and Cigarettes
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or smoking too many cigarettes a day can lead to serious health problems including hypertension. It can also reduce the efficiency of medicines for the condition. In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, men should keep their alcohol consumption under two drinks a day and women should limit it to one drink a day, at the most.
5. Reduce salt intake
You need to regulate your salt intake to control the consumption of sodium, which can help reduce your blood pressure considerably. Sodium increases the water retention in the body, eventually leading to hypertension. Your daily salt consumption should not be more than half a teaspoon. Choose food products with low sodium content as and when possible.
6. Monitor Blood Pressure at home
It is extremely important to monitor one’s blood pressure levels at all times. Keeping track of your blood pressure levels will help understand if any lifestyle changes are required, or if the ones that have been made are working. It could also help you alert a doctor as and when required in case there is a spike in one’s blood pressure levels.
If you have high blood pressure levels, it is recommended that you visit your doctor regularly. However, if you have them under control, you can simply ask your doctor how often you need to get the levels checked.
Foods to reduce blood pressure
In addition to being low in sodium, bananas are also rich in potassium, thus helping lower blood pressure. Include this fruit in your diet along with cereals or in the form of cakes and smoothies. However, it is best if one consumes the fruit as a whole.
A diet high in fiber and whole grains goes a long way in reducing blood pressure. Adding oatmeal to your diet does just that. Helping reduce both systolic and diastolic pressure, this low-sodium food can be consumed as porridge or even in pancakes.
Half a cup of cooked spinach provides around 12% of an adult’s recommended daily calcium intake. Also rich in fiber and packed with potassium, folate, and magnesium, this green leafy vegetable is key to lowering and maintaining blood pressure. To top it off, spinach is also low in calories.
Carrots can play a major role in reducing blood pressure because of the presence of potassium and beta-carotene. One can also consume them as a juice to maintain normal ranges since it helps regulate heart and kidney functions.
Avocados have a good amount of oleic acid. This helps to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, thus proving highly beneficial for heart health. Rich in Vitamins A, B, E and K, and loaded with fiber, avocados also contain potassium and folate, which makes them even better for the heart.
Watermelon contains L-citrulline, an amino acid that helps lower blood pressure levels. It also contains plenty of fiber, lycopene, potassium and vitamin A. Thus, adding this delicious fruit to your diet will only benefit your heart further.
Beetroot juice can also lower systolic blood pressure in just a few hours. In addition to that, this vegetable is also rich in nitrates, thus helping relax blood vessels and improve blood flow. One can observe greater benefits by consuming it on a daily basis.
8. Sunflower seeds
Just a handful of seeds can help lower your blood pressure. A great source of magnesium, they are also rich in vitamin E, folic acid, protein, and fiber. That said, it is essential to ensure you consume them unsalted in order to minimize your sodium intake.
An orange a day keeps hypertension away. While it is ideal to eat the whole fruit, a glass of orange juice would also serve to load yourself with fiber and vitamin C, thus helping lower blood pressure levels.
Fish have always known to be a great source of lean protein. The high omega-3 fatty acid content in fish like mackerel and salmon can help lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and lower triglycerides.
In addition to these, fish like trout also have vitamin D. Foods rarely have vitamin D, and these hormone-like vitamin has properties that can help reduce blood pressure. Additionally, fish is easy to flavour and cook.
Pomegranates, as a fruit, can be enjoyed both raw or as a juice. A study showed that drinking a cup of pomegranate juice a day for four weeks helps reduce blood pressure in the long term.
While the juice can improve your heart health, these benefits may be negated with the addition of sugars. Avoid adding any or check the sugar content in store-bought juices before consuming them.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is a lifelong approach to healthy eating that is designed to treat or prevent Hypertension.
The diet itself includes a lot of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. The DASH diet also includes some fish, poultry, and legumes. It also encourages the consumption of a small amount of nuts and seeds, a few times a week.
The DASH diet is low in saturated fat, trans fat and total fat.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A: Blood pressure cannot be lowered right away. It may take a few hours to come down to normal with the help of the right kinds of food and the necessary medication. That said, eating high potassium fruits like banana and watermelon, or drinking coconut water is beneficial to keeping blood pressure in check.
A: Doing the following will go a long way in helping lower one’s blood pressure from the comfort of their homes:
1. Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline
2. Exercise regularly
3. Eat a healthy diet
4. Reduce sodium in your diet
5. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
6. Quit smoking
7. Cut back on caffeine
8. Reduce your stress
9. Monitor your blood pressure at home and see your doctor regularly
A: Some of the best drinks in order to reduce blood pressure are milk, hibiscus tea, and pomegranate juice. Milk is rich in phosphorus, potassium and calcium. These three nutrients are associated with healthy blood pressure. Additionally, it is fortified with vitamin D, further improving its ability to lower blood pressure.
According to a study in the Journal of Nutrition, drinking hibiscus tea can significantly lower blood pressure. Researchers say the anthocyanins and other antioxidants present in hibiscus tea can help blood vessels resist damage that can cause them to narrow. You can have up to 3 cups a day.
Loaded with potassium and other heart-healthy nutrients, pomegranate juice has thrice the antioxidant activity of green tea or red wine. Studies have found that regularly drinking pomegranate juice can significantly improve blood pressure levels.
A: The caffeine in coffee can cause a short, but dramatic, rise in blood pressure. Some people that drink caffeinated beverages have a higher blood pressure than those that do not. Some that drink coffee regularly develop a tolerance to caffeine. As a result, caffeine does not have a long-term effect on blood pressure.
In case of high blood pressure, it is ideal to consult with a doctor to understand if one can drink coffee or not.
Managing the condition requires significant commitment and persistence from your side. In addition to incorporating healthy routines into your lifestyle, you should also regularly check your blood pressure, and if it is more than the normal range, medical assistance should be sought. A proper combination of medication and lifestyle changes is a must to maintain normal blood pressure.