- New blood pressure guidelines mean more people are identified with hypertension
- Stricter numbers mean taking steps to control blood pressure before it gets too high.
In a wake up call to people living on this side of the Atlantic, the American Heart Association recently announced that it was revising its guidelines for what is considered high blood pressure — which means even more of us will be considered as being “hypertensive.”Before this report, the association estimated that some 30 percent of Americans had hypertension, or high blood pressure. Under the new guidelines, closer to half of Americans’ blood pressure readings will be considered too high. A shift that’s likely to be reflected in the UK and Europe.
So, what is too high for blood pressure?
The new guidelines consider blood pressure readings above 130/80 to be too high — and blood pressure above 120/80 to be “elevated.” Previously, the association considered readings above 140/90 to be high, and 120/80 or below as normal.
Why this change in policy?
Well, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world, according to the American Heart Association. The new guidelines note that, in the United States, high blood pressure causes more deaths from heart disease and stroke than all other preventable causes, except cigarette smoking. Yet high blood pressure doesn’t usually make someone feel bad; so it often acts as a “silent” until a stroke or heart attack actually happens.
The good news is that most people can lower their blood pressure even without medication. Quoted in the online journal ‘My Southern Health’, Joshua Beckman, M.D., cardiovascular specialist with the Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular programme, says that keeping weight within healthy limits helps keep blood pressure normal. Beckman also said that people should be mindful ware of their alcohol consumption, and drink only in moderation. “Moderation” means no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women.
Beyond healthy weight and limited drinking, here are four big weapons against hypertension:
1. Cut way back on salt in your diet.
Modern mainstream dietary patterns seems to love salty food, but it doesn’t love us back. Fried food, processed food, bacon — they’re all high in salt (sodium). If you have high blood pressure — even if you’ve only just landed in this category under the new guidelines — read food labels carefully and keep track of how much sodium you’re taking in. Aim for less than 2.3 grams of sodium per day.
Be aware that many foods that don’t taste particularly salty may be hiding a lot of sodium (for example, sshop-bought salad dressings, white bread and tinned foods). Check the actual amount of sodium in a food; and don’t assume that just because a packet or tin is labelled “low sodium” that you can eat that food and still stay within your daily salt limit.
Consider flavouring food with lemon or lime juice, fresh herbs, garlic and peppers — all pack a lot of flavour but without the salt.
2. Get plenty of exercise.
If you get very little (or no) physical activity, learning to work some into your daily routine will give a boost to your health. If you’ve had a very sedentary life-style, you will need to gently ease exercise into your routine to avoid injury and burnout – and if you have any health issues or concerns, then speak to your General Practitioner before you start.
You don’t need an hour or more of intense sweating to get the benefits of physical activity. Squeezing it in by short bursts counts, too. Once you are in the habit of a daily workout — even if it’s just a stroll — the benefits of regular walking will become soon apparent.
3. Manage stress.
Exercise is good for this, too. Brisk walking, lifting weights, even a kickboxing class — these are all of help in blowing off steam. Whilst getting the hang of yoga can do wonders for calming the body and mind too. Technology has also come to the rescue here. There are now a range of proven stress-management and stress relief products available which, not only work, but can produce very quick results. You can explore the latest in stress-relief technology here
It’s also becoming clear from recent scientific studies that sleep plays a central role in many aspects of our health, including our ability to shake off stress. To explore medication-free products that help promote better sleep, please see here
4. Quit smoking.
Smoking cigarettes raises blood pressure, which in turn increases the chances of a stroke and heart disease.
Breaking a nicotine addiction is difficult, but even people who have smoked for decades have been able to do it. Quitting smoking improves health, in many ways, and some of these show very quickly. One of the first things to improve is blood pressure —and this can begin as early as 20 minutes after your last puff.
There are many ways to reach a healthy blood pressure, Beckman says. The more strategies the use, the better you will feel and the less likely that your doctor will tell you to start taking hypertension medication.
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