Most people assume that the presence of a high blood pressure (BP) will be obvious due to symptoms such as headache, anxiety, dizziness or weakness, but the reality is that high blood pressure is a ‘silent killer’. It causes progressive damage to the heart, kidneys, eyes and other organs with no symptoms whatsoever. By the time the affected person finally realises that something is wrong, usually due to the onset of symptoms such as breathlessness, stroke or decreased vision, significant damage to the body systems has already been done.
Therefore, it is important to get a thorough health check-up done regularly and the BP is monitored. A reading below 140/90 mmHg is preferable. If the BP is found to be high, do not panic. The good news is that simple measures such as lifestyle changes may bring it down to a level where the need for medications is considerably reduced. The important measures to be undertaken to bring the blood pressure under control are:
Establish a daily exercise routine
A regular exercise routine is known to prevent heart problems and decrease the blood pressure. Of course, you have to take it slowly at first and then gradually pick up the pace and frequency of workouts. A gym membership is not essential, instead you can go for long walks, jogging or cycling.
Follow the DASH diet
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is very helpful in lowering BP. According to this approach, the intake of the following food items should be increased:
- Fruits : Indian gooseberry (amla), apricot, watermelon, lemons, bananas
- Vegetables : Carrots, spinach and other green leafy vegetables, celery stalks
- grains: Flour, bread
- Whole Low-fat dairy products : skimmed milk, low fat yoghurt and cheese
- Lean meats : any meat without visible fat
- Nuts: Almonds, pistachios, walnuts
- Foods rich in magnesium , potassium and calcium : Boiled potatoes, Coconut water, Banana, Raisins, Kidney beans
The intake of the following food items should be reduced:
- Saturated fats : meat with visible fat, whole milk, cream , butter
- Sweets including sweetened beverages.
Cut back on the salt
It is important to restrict salt intake as increased sodium level in body results in increased fluid retention, which increases BP. The flavour in the food can be increased can be with the addition of herbs, spices, garlic and onions and the use of salt minimized during cooking. The salt shaker should be banished from the dining table to avoid adding extra salt during meals. Also, avoid processed foods which usually have a high sodium level.
Losing weight and decreasing abdominal fat is good for the heart and also has a beneficial effect on the blood pressure. The waist measurement should be less than 40 inches for men and less than 35 inches for women
Cigarette smoking, even if passive, is a well -known risk factor for raised BP and heart disease.
Take alcohol in moderation
Alcohol intake needs to be limited as excessive drinking adversely affects health, including BP. The recommended allowance is one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
Stress in workplace, relationships or finances can raise BP. To relieve stress, deep breathing exercises, meditation and yoga should become part of daily routine.