Hypertension is the most common condition that affects the cardiovascular system. When you have hypertension, it simply means that the pressure within the walls of your artery is high consistently. High blood pressure is bad because it makes it harder for the heart to pump blood. It could also damage the walls of your artery which can lead to more fatal consequences such as a cardiovascular accident, commonly called a stroke. To be hypertensive, a person must have a blood pressure reading that is consistently more than 130/80mmHg (1). High blood pressure predisposes one to risks such as heart attack, stroke, and other significant health problems.
It is important to take the necessary steps to manage your blood pressure. Blood pressure management is not only limited to hypertensive patients. Whether you have normal or abnormal blood pressure, you must ensure proper blood pressure management.
Most Important Steps to Managing Hypertension
1. Monitor Your Blood Pressure: Yes, you heard that right. The most important step in managing blood pressure is to measure it. The frequency of measurement, however, depends on your state of health and other factors. Routine blood pressure checks for people without abnormal blood pressure levels can be carried out every year or once in two years. Individuals that are over 40 years need to check at least, once a year. People already diagnosed with abnormal blood pressure levels must check more frequently. Asides from routine checks, blood pressure levels can also be measured when two or more of the signs of high blood pressure are present. As with many other diseases, early treatment of high blood pressure or low blood pressure means a better prognosis. Early treatment requires early diagnosis. Check your blood pressure today!
2. Blood Pressure Medications: If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, your doctor might prescribe some antihypertensive medications such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, alpha-blockers, vasodilators. You must ensure that you use these medications as instructed by your doctor. The use of antihypertensive medications to reduce high blood pressure has been proven to be effective and efficient. Avoid self-medication, all antihypertensives must be taken with a proper prescription.
3. Shed Some Weights: Increased body weight means higher tendencies of having high blood pressure. Weight loss is one of the best ways to reduce blood pressure. Being overweight or obese sometimes disrupts breathing while you sleep. This sleep apnea also increases blood pressure. You can use the Body Mass Index or waist circumference to estimate the ideal weight for you. A normal Body Mass Index is between 18.5 and 24.9 (2). Men should try to keep a waist circumference lower than 40 inches/102 centimeters while women should try to keep a waist circumference lower than 35 inches/89 centimeters. Aerobic exercises, intermittent fasting, and healthy dieting help to reduce body weight.
4. Regular Exercise: Consistent physical activity helps to reduce blood pressure by up to 8mmHg. Aerobics and moderate, and high-intensity exercises have been suggested by studies as effective ways to reduce high blood pressure. In addition to aerobic exercises like walking, cycling, jogging, and swimming, high-intensity interval training alternate short bursts of intense activity and longer periods of lighter activities (3). More recent research has shown that incorporating strength training into an exercise routine at least twice a week helps to reduce body weight.
5. Healthy Diet: A diet filled with whole grains, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, fruits, and foods with lowered cholesterol helps in lowering high blood pressure. The presence of minerals such as potassium also helps in the reduction of high blood pressure. It is important to discuss with your doctor to have in-depth knowledge of how much potassium you need to take. As a general rule, it is important to reduce the consumption of sodium in diet. Adults are advised to keep sodium consumption at less than 1500mg daily. The presence of vitamins C (4) and D (5) has also been proven to cause a slight reduction in blood pressure. If you get confused about the right types of food for you, pay a visit to your doctor, dietitian, or nutritionist.
6. Eliminate Stress: Long-term emotional stress has been suggested as a contributor to high blood pressure. Stress reduction or elimination is important to blood pressure management. To reduce stress, ensure you stop trying to do too much at a time. Make efforts to recognize and avoid your stress triggers. Practice relaxation through activities you enjoy or hobbies. Yoga and meditation are some of the most popular ways to relax and remove body stress (6).
7. Reduce Alcohol and Stop Smoking (7): The intake of alcohol must be reduced to less than one drink for women and two drinks every day for men. Apart from its ability to increase blood pressure independently, alcohol also severely reduces the efficacy of drugs that are used in managing hypertension. Stopping smoking also helps to reduce blood pressure. Smoking is also a risk factor for a lot of other diseases. When you stop smoking, you reduce your tendency of having heart disease, and you have overall improved health and longer life. Seek professional help if you have trouble reducing alcohol or stopping smoking.
8. Healthy Sleeping Habit: Observing good sleeping habits helps to reduce high blood pressure in hypertensive patients. Getting less than six hours of sleep for several nights consistently is bad for your health – and can indeed contribute to high blood pressure. Always ensure you get enough night’s sleep. Sticking to a sleep schedule, maintaining a relaxing sleeping space, and limiting naps during the daytime are proven tips that help to achieve a good night’s sleep. Avoiding large meals very close to bedtime is also important. Avoid nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine close to bedtime as they can alter sleep patterns (8) and make managing blood pressure more difficult. Report consistent insomnia and other sleep disorders to your doctor.
Managing blood pressure revolves mainly around monitoring, the use of medications and behavioral changes. Most times, when a person is diagnosed with hypertension, management of the condition requires a combination of all these methods. Some other times, behavioral changes and lifestyle modification might be enough to take the blood back to a physiological level. All recommended lifestyle changes are not just applicable to people who have been diagnosed with hypertension and want to reduce high blood pressure, they are also useful in preventing hypertension among other people. If you have any concerns about your blood pressure, kindly make use of our telemedicine service by speaking to our doctors.