On this World Hypertension Day, we tell you about the small but significant lifestyle changes that can help you to manage the numbers on your blood pressure (BP) machine in a more efficient way.
World Hypertension Day is celebrated every year on 17th of May with the aim of spreading awareness about the health ramifications of high blood pressure (BP) and promoting a healthy lifestyle. The World Hypertension League (WHL), a non-profit organisation, initiated the observance of this day from 14th May, 2005. However, it was in 2006 that WHL declared 17th May as the annual World Hypertension Day. Each year, the day is observed with a particular theme. The theme for this year is ‘Know your numbers’. Hypertension, or high blood pressure could be the common risk factor for a number of health issues like cardiovascular ailments, nervous system problems, kidney diseases, vision impairment and sexual dysfunction to name a few. According to a 2017 report by the Cardiological Society of India, high BP is a silent killer that accounts for more than 30 per cent deaths in the country. The report also mentioned that around one in every three Indians suffer from high blood pressure.
If you suffer from hypertension, you may experience symptoms such as severe headache, breathlessness, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, vision impairment, exhaustion and confusion. Several estimates suggest that about one-third of the entire population that lives with high blood pressure fails to understand their condition because the symptoms are usually invisible or misinterpreted. However, if you experience any of these symptoms, you should consult your doctor who can assess your condition and rule out the possibility of hypertension.
HOW IS BP MEASURED?
Your blood pressure levels are measured using an instrument and the reading comes in two numbers. The first number denotes your systolic blood pressure. It is the pressure that your blood puts on your artery walls as the heart beats. This indicates your blood pressure levels when you heart rests in between the beats. A reading of 120/80 mmHg on the BP machine is considered normal. If your numbers are over 140/90 mmHg, then your doctor will start treatment for high BP.
To treat hypertension, your doctor may prescribe drugs like ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, diuretics, alpha blockers, calcium channel blockers, etc. However, these drugs come with their own set of side effects. Moreover, everyone doesn’t react to these medicines in the same way. Some may even experience an allergy flare-up as a reaction to these medicines. Also, do not take over the counter BP drugs without consulting your physician.
Most of the people with hypertension have some common risk factors like obesity, inactive lifestyle, unhealthy eating, heavy drinking, etc. These are lifestyle issues, which, if not addressed, may take your blood pressure levels up, despite the medicines. So lifestyle modification plays an instrumental role in BP management. On this World Hypertension Day, we share with you a few small but significant lifestyle tweaks that will help you keep your blood pressure levels under control.
Work out regularly
Working out regularly gives you numerous health benefits and it can control your blood pressure levels as well if you are suffering from hypertension. In a study published in the journal Current Hypertension Reports, the researchers revealed that aerobic and strength training workouts can help you regulate high BP levels successfully. The study elucidated that the amount of decline in your blood pressure depends on the intensity and duration of your workout. It was found in this research that aerobic exercises lowered the systolic blood pressure significantly while strength training managed to curb diastolic blood pressure.
According to some estimates, frequently exercising for about 150 minutes per week can help you bring down your blood pressure levels by 5 to 8 mm Hg. Low-intensity exercises like walking and jogging could also help. However, performing high-intensity workouts regularly can make your condition worse. So, it is important for you to consult your doctor before performing any high-intensity exercise. Yoga asanas like Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, Shavasana and Baddhakonasana can also help you manage your blood pressure levels. According to a study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, yoga can significantly help in curbing blood pressure.
Monitor your waistline
If you are overweight, you are more likely to develop hypertension as compared to someone with a healthy bodyweight. Experts in the field are of the opinion that even if you manage to lose a little weight, you can keep your blood pressure levels in check. According to a study published in the journal Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, obesity is a major risk factor behind hypertension. Some estimates suggest that you can lower 1 mm Hg of your blood pressure with each kilogram of body weight that you lose. As per the findings of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, US, men with a waist circumference of over 40 inches are more prone to hypertension whereas women with a waist size of more than 35 inches are more likely to experience surging blood pressure levels.
Manage your stress
Stress is another risk factor that can rev up your blood pressure levels. This is because when you are stressed you are more likely to gulp down alcohol or light up a cigarette frequently. These can take your blood pressure levels up. You need to assess your condition and look for the reason behind your stress. Trying deep breathing and yoga could also be an option to manage stress and eventually curb your blood pressure. In a study published in the journal WMJ, the researchers noted that though stress doesn’t directly affect blood pressure, but it can lead to the development of hypertension in many individuals.
Limit your sodium intake
Sodium intake and high blood pressure are closely associated. If you complain of high blood pressure levels, your doctor will immediately recommend you to cut back on your salt intake. According to the World Health Organization’s guidelines the ideal intake of sodium per day should be 1,500 micrograms. However, one tablespoon of salt only contains about 2,300 micrograms of sodium. . In a study published in the journal Electrolyte Blood Press, the researchers revealed that lowering dietary sodium intake can significantly lower high blood pressure levels in healthy adults.
To limit your sodium intake avoid processed food and keep your salt shaker away from the dining table. Also, use low quantity of sugar while prepping your meals.
Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption
Smoking and alcohol consumption are two culprits that can take a toll on our health and well-being in more ways than one. Smoking mostly attacks your lungs while the most favourite target of alcohol is your liver. However, these two habits can give you hypertension as well. As per the findings of a study published in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Design, cigarette smoking exerts a hypertensive effect through sympathetic nervous system that leads to a surge in your blood pressure levels. Another study in the World Journal of Cardiology cited that excessive alcohol consumption can have similar effects on your BP levels.