High Blood Pressure Threatens Your Health and Quality of Life
When your blood pressure is too high for too long, it damages your blood vessels – and LDL (bad) cholesterol begins to accumulate along tears in your artery walls.
As a result, high blood pressure puts you at greater risk for developing life-changing and potentially life-threating conditions. In most cases, the damage done by high blood pressure (HBP, or hypertension) takes place over time. Left undetected or uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to:
- Heart attack — High blood pressure damages arteries that can become blocked and prevent blood flow to the heart muscle.
- Stroke — High blood pressure can cause blood vessels in the brain to clog more easily or even burst.
- Heart failure — The increased workload from high blood pressure can cause the heart to enlarge and fail to supply blood to the body.
- Kidney disease or failure — High blood pressure can damage the arteries around the kidneys and interfere with their ability to filter blood effectively.
- Vision loss — High blood pressure can strain or damage blood vessels in the eyes.
- Sexual dysfunction — High blood pressure can lead to erectile dysfunction in men or lower libido in women.
- Angina — Over time, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease or microvascular disease (MVD). Angina, or chest pain, is a common symptom.
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD) — Atherosclerosis caused by high blood pressure can cause a narrowing of arteries in the legs, arms, stomach and head, causing pain or fatigue.
Health Threats from High Blood Pressure
Image Source: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/health-threats-from-high-blood-pressure
Ways You Can Lower Your Blood Pressure and Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease Without Medication
LOSE EXTRA POUNDS & WATCH YOUR WAISTLINE
Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight also can cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep-apnea), which further raises your blood pressure.
Losing even a small amount of weight if you’re overweight or obese can help reduce your blood pressure.In general, you may reduce your blood pressure by about 1mm of mercury (mm Hg) with each kilogram of weight you lose.
Besides shedding pounds, you generally should also keep an eye on your waistline. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high blood pressure. In general, men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 in (102 cm); women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 in (89 cm).
Regular physical activity — about 30 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. It’s important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again.
If you have elevated blood pressure, exercise can help you avoid developing hypertension. If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels.
Some exercise you can try to lower blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. You can also try high-intensity interval training. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Aim to include strength training exercises at least two days a week. Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program
EAT A HEALTHY DIET
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 11 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure.
REDUCE SODIUM IN YOUR DIET
Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can improve your heart health and reduce blood pressure by about 5 to 6 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure.
To decrease sodium in your diet, consider these tips:
- Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy.
- Eat fewer processed foods. Only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in foods. Most sodium is added during processing.
- Don’t add salt. Use herbs or spices to add flavour to your food.
- Ease into it. If you don’t feel you can drastically reduce the sodium in your diet suddenly, cut back gradually. Your palate will adjust over time.
LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL YOU DRINK
Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. By drinking alcohol only in moderation — generally one drink a day for women, or two a day for men — you can potentially lower your blood pressure by about 4 mm Hg.
But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol. Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. Stopping smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. People who quit smoking may live longer than people who never quit smoking.
CUT BACK ON CAFFEINE
The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debated.Caffeine can raise blood pressure up to 10 mm Hg in people who rarely consume it. But people who drink coffee regularly may experience little or no effect on their blood pressure.
To see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a caffeinated beverage. If your blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 mm Hg, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine.
REDUCE YOUR STRESS
Chronic stress may contribute to high blood pressure. Occasional stress also can contribute to high blood pressure if you react to stress by eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol or smoking.
Take some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as work, family, finances or illness. Once you know what’s causing your stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress. If you can’t eliminate all of your stressors, you can at least cope with them in a healthier way.
MONITOR YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE AT HOME AND SEE YOUR DOCTOR REGULARLY
Home monitoring can help you keep tabs on your blood pressure, make certain your lifestyle changes are working, and alert you and your doctor to potential health complications.
Regular visits with your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure.
Supportive family and friends can help improve your health. They may encourage you to take care of yourself, drive you to the doctor’s office or embark on an exercise program with you to keep your blood pressure low.
If you find you need support beyond your family and friends, consider joining a support group.