We’re going to begin with a sobering fact about hypertension so you understand the importance of controlling this condition — high blood pressure is listed as the primary or contributing cause of nearly half a million deaths each year in the United States.
Dr. James Kim understands this statistic better than most, which is why our team of heart health experts decided to pull together a few tips to help you bring your blood pressure numbers down.
What is hypertension?
As your blood is pumped through your heart, it exits through your arteries to deliver oxygen and nutrients throughout your body.
When you have hypertension, or high blood pressure, the pressure exerted on the walls of these all-important blood vessels is too high, which can leave you at risk for some very serious and life-threatening complications, such as heart attack and stroke.
Step one: Get checked
Hypertension is often called a “silent killer” because, in its early stages, you typically don't feel any symptoms.
One of the most important steps you can take to preserve your heart health is to have us check your blood pressure regularly and often. Determining your blood pressure is both easy and painless — we simply place a cuff over your arm, inflate it, and then record the pressure your blood exerts both during and in between heartbeats.
The numbers we gather from this harmless screening provide you with a glimpse into the function of your cardiovascular system and allows you to take potentially life-saving preventive action.
Tips for controlling hypertension
Depending upon your numbers, we can prescribe some medications to help lower your blood pressure. While effective, the steps you take at home are equally as important in bringing your blood pressure under control. These steps include:
The weight problem in the United States is problematic, as two-thirds of the population is considered overweight or obese. Carrying extra weight is one of the biggest risk factors for high blood pressure, so endeavoring to lose that excess fat can make a big difference.
Work it out
To encourage great cardiovascular health, exercise is paramount. We recommend that you get out and raise your heart rate as often as you can — at least 150 minutes a week, but 30 minutes a day is even better.
We’re not asking you to go run a marathon, but taking a morning or evening walk around the neighborhood can help lower your blood pressure. As you become more fit, you can start to add a little more to your exercise regimen to keep your heart rate up. Perhaps you can run a little or add some hills.
You are what you eat
Your diet plays no small role in your blood pressure, so we urge you to:
- Avoid sodium (salt)
- Add whole grains
- Introduce more fruits and vegetables
One of the biggest hurdles we face as a nation is that our diets have become calorie-rich, but nutrient-poor.
If you read the labels on the foods you eat, you might be surprised to find that sodium lurks almost everywhere. While some sodium is unavoidable, resist the urge to automatically add salt to your meal.
Another great technique is to add more potassium to your diet, which offsets the sodium. Potassium is found in abundance in many fruits and vegetables.
Ditch the tobacco
Another big contributor to high blood pressure is smoking. If you’re looking for another reason to quit (and there are many), add hypertension to this list.
Drink in moderation
Some alcohol on a daily basis doesn’t usually pose any problems, but if you drink to excess, you’re not doing your cardiovascular health any favors. We urge you to confine your alcohol intake to one or two servings a day.
Our lives are busy, which can create a great deal of stress. When you’re stressed out, your body exists in a fight-or-flight mode, which makes your cardiovascular system work harder.
For hypertension, and many other reasons, we recommend that you find ways to manage your stress, such as deep breathing exercises, unplugging your phone and computer, and engaging in practices like yoga.
If you implement a few of these lifestyle changes, we promise you that not only can you lower your blood pressure numbers, you can improve your overall health and wellness in meaningful ways.
If you have more questions about managing your hypertension, please contact one of our two locations in National City or Chula Vista, California.