Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is caused by factors external and internal. And while you can’t do anything about your genetic predisposition, every other cause can be eliminated by sheer willpower. If you’re suffering from hypertension, this may be your last chance to turn bad lifestyle choices around, because high blood pressure should not be taken lightly.
The effects that this dangerous condition has on your body are putting additional strain on your heart, leaving it no choice but to pump harder. As a result, your heart muscle can go weary and weak, before it eventually stops working efficiently. Hypertension thus increases your risk of serious heart diseases.
The way to prevent that is by developing the following healthy habits.
Avoid Fatty Foods
Processed deli and lunch meats, frozen pizzas, and blueberry muffins. When we hear “fatty foods”, most of us think of TV dinners, cakes, and cookies. But foods that are typically considered as healthy, such as coleslaw, eggs, yogurt, granola, cereal bars, and even avocados, are just as saturated with fat.
What saturated fat does is raise your cholesterol levels, which immediately shows as extra pounds. At the same time, these high cholesterol levels in your blood clog your arteries and distress your heart, causing both hypertension and its accompanying bundle of health risk factors. This must be prevented.
So, the general idea is to steer clear from processed meat, frozen pizzas and pastries, vegetable juices, and canned products like soups and tomato sauces. Everything packaged and pre-prepared is usually brimming with fat, salt, and sugar. Stick to home-made meals and carefully examine product labels.
Throw In A Little Exercise
Dietary restrictions are only one part of the necessary lifestyle changes you need to make to avoid taking medication for high blood pressure. Regular physical exercise goes hand in hand with healthy nutrition, as it allows you to keep your condition under control by staying fit and watching your weight.
Now, you don’t have to do cross-fit or powerlifting to maintain a healthy heart. As long as you exercise at least four or five hours a week, basic cardio will do the trick. Go jogging every day for about 30 minutes, and you may reduce your blood pressure for around 1 mm of mercury for each kg you lose.
Walking, cycling, swimming or even dancing can deliver the same results. In case you need something more intense, try strength training for at least two days a week. High-intensity interval training with short bursts of intense activity combined with periods of recovery is also amazing for blood pressure.
Say No to Alcohol
Anything more than three drinks per sitting can increase your blood pressure, but that usually doesn’t have any long-term effects on your heart and body. Everyday benders, however, most definitely lead to hypertension. This condition doesn’t forbid you from consuming alcohol, but moderation is crucial.
For ladies, this means only one drink a day, which translates to 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer. For gentlemen younger than age 65, a healthy dose of alcohol is double the amount recommended to women, while men older than that should drink as much as ladies. There’s no shame in being healthy.
The main problem with alcohol is that it usually contains high amounts of sugar, which is a huge risk factor when it comes to hypertension. Particularly in older age, excessive drinking triggers weight gain, and weight gain puts additional strain on the heart. If it’s all the same to you, avoid alcohol altogether.
Limit the Intake of Sodium
The most common form of sodium is table salt, and that’s exactly what you must limit if you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure or if you want to avoid developing hypertension. Salt affects your kidneys in a way that makes them hold on to water, put a strain on the heart, and raise blood pressure.
High-sodium foods are more or less the same foods we’ve talked about while discussing saturated fats as a part of your everyday diet – these are processed meats, which include smoked, cured, and canned meat, as well as frozen dinners and canned entrees. Salted nuts fall under the high-sodium category too.
You might also need to lower your intake of dairy products, especially processed cheese and cheese spreads, and find an alternative for bread, biscuits, and pastries made from self-rising flour. Read the label in case you’re unsure – if a product has more than 400 mg of sodium, it’s better left on the rack.
Focus on Potassium-Rich Foods
But what are you allowed to eat then, you wonder? By balancing out the negative effects of salt, a little miracle-maker mineral called potassium helps lower your blood pressure. Whatever’s left unprocessed, like vegetables and fruit, is considered a health boost and a natural source of potassium.
One survey found that only 3% of Americans meet the recommendation for potassium intake, and scientists believe the main culprit for that is the typical Western diet, which is traditionally very low in fresh ingredients. To feel all the benefits, stick to the recommended daily intake of 4,700 mg.
You can find potassium in lentils and beans (especially white beans), potatoes and sweet potatoes (about one-third of the mineral is concentrated in the skin), beets, parsnips, spinach, Swiss chard, fresh tomato sauce, oranges and fresh orange juice, bananas, avocados, yogurt, clams, salmon, and coconut water.
Oh, and Don’t Smoke
Both exposure to secondhand smoke and smoking increase the risk for the buildup of fatty substances inside the arteries. Unlike with comfort food and alcoholic beverages, which can be consumed in small portions and doses, tobacco is better completely avoided in every form, including secondhand smoke.
Be careful, as high blood pressure rarely causes any discernible symptoms. You may be suffering from hypertension even if you don’t notice it, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you make these six lifestyle changes, your chances of developing a heart-damaging condition such as this one are slim.