Take the Tension out of Hypertension
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, occurs when the force inside the artery walls is consistently too high. One in 3 adults has hypertension. Most of us know at least one person who has hypertension. Hypertension is known as the “Silent Killer” because most of the time there are no symptoms. This can lead to serious issues such as stroke, heart attack, kidney damage and vision loss if left untreated.
When we think about high blood pressure or hypertension the first thing we think of is salt intake. Americans eat on average 3,400 mg of salt per day. It’s recommended we eat 2,300 mg or less per day. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats can help lower our blood pressure.
What are other causes of hypertension? Since the start of the pandemic, stress and anxiety have skyrocketed. The increased use of caffeine, alcohol and tobacco have increased to help cope with the increased levels of stress. We underestimate how these coping mechanisms impact our blood pressure.
Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Move Those Muscles - 30 minutes most days of the week helps our heart get stronger. Our hearts can pump more blood with less effort, reducing the pressure of our arteries, which lowers our blood pressure.
Sunny Disposition - Not just an expression, but getting out in the sun and getting vitamin D can improve one’s mood and stress level, ultimately helping lower their blood pressure. Aim for at least 15 minutes of direct sun exposure each day.
Contemplate Caffeine - Caffeine tolerability differs person to person. Some people don’t see a rise in blood pressure. 400 mg or 4-8 ounce cups of coffee is generally safe for most people. If you do have hypertension, talk with your primary care provider to see if limiting caffeine to 200 mg or less may be a good idea.
Limit Alcohol - Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. Limit to 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women. What about red wine for heart health? Unfortunately, red wine for heart health is a myth. This is most likely due to other lifestyle factors and not just red wine intake. The key is moderation.
Compress Stress - Acute or short-term stress can temporarily increase one’s blood pressure, but it will go down. There is less research on chronic or long term stress and hypertension. The latest research suggests how we react to chronic stress and how it impacts our lifestyle habits may lead to hypertension and increase our risks for other conditions. Exercise, a healthy diet, good sleep hygiene and removing certain stressors from your life are all great ways to reduce stress.
Move Those Muscles