Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) is on the rise and shows no sign of abating in the near future. For persons suffering with this ailment it’s an ongoing battle to manage and stave off the more serious effects if left untreated. There are a number of medications available and a vast amount of research being conducted to control and if possible eliminate this impending epidemic. This document is meant to provide some additional tips to assist in this fight. For the most part the information presented focuses on lifestyle changes which play a significant role in keeping your blood pressure level within the acceptable range (120/80 normal,140/90 danger zone). A healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of high blood pressure or if you’re already afflicted, can lessen your need for prescribed medication(s).
A number of studies have been conducted which has conclusively proven that a diet low in sodium (salt) and high in potassium, magnesium and vegetable proteins can significantly affect your blood pressure level. Sodium causes water retention which in turn increases the total quantity of blood in the body thus increasing your blood pressure. You need to lower your sodium intake with the goal of completely eliminating it from your diet if you’re hypertensive or pre-hypertensive. Be aware that sodium is most present in canned foods, snacks, fast foods and processed foods. You need to be vigilant in your salt consumption; its limitation is one of the most natural ways of lowering your blood pressure.
Potassium is an essential dietary mineral of the electrolyte family which transmits the electrical currents that cells, tissues and organs need to function. Its ultimate effect is to cause a relaxation of the blood vessels, leading to a lowering of blood pressure. It also plays an essential role in controlling fluid balance in one’s body, helping to maintain a balance of sodium levels as cells pump out sodium to be replaced by potassium. Through this balance the nerves are allowed to transmit impulses, the muscles to contract and your heart to beat. Natural sources of potassium include: tomato, spinach, swiss chard, soy, sweet potato, dried herbs, avocados, bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, nuts, whole grains, paprika and red chili powder, cocoa powder and chocolate, dried apricots, prunes, currants, raisins, low-fat dairy and cold water fishes.
Magnesium promotes normal blood pressure, keeps heart rhythm steady, helps regulate blood sugar levels, maintain normal muscle and nerve function, supports a healthy immune system and keeps bones strong. It is also credited with offering the following health benefits as related to the cardiovascular system: dilates blood vessels, prevents spasms in your heart muscles and blood vessel walls, dissolves blood clots and counteracts the action of calcium (which increases spasm).
Akin to potassium, magnesium can also be found in abundance in a wide variety of common everyday foods. Foods rich in magnesium include:
• Fruits - bananas, artichokes, dried figs, avocado
• Grains – brown rice, oat bran, barley, whole wheat flour, buckwheat flour
• Vegetables – beans, broccoli, spinach, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, okra,
• Fishes – tuna, halibut, yellowfin, haddock
• Nuts – peanuts, cashews, brazil nuts, almonds, pine nuts
Weight and Exercise
Blood pressure normally increases with weight. Being overweight means that your heart must work harder, this puts a strain on the cardiovascular system and increases your blood pressure. Losing weight can significantly decrease or in some cases, eliminate the need for medication. An active lifestyle plays a dual role in managing your blood pressure. While contributing to weight control it’s a firmly held belief that exercise stimulates the endothelial cells, (the cells lining the inner surface of blood vessels) to release the molecule nitric oxide which promotes relaxation of blood vessels, regeneration of the endothelium (the inner lining of arteries) and inhibition of platelet clumping which makes the blood thinner.
Alcohol in moderate quantities (maximum one drink for a woman and two for a man per day) can actually contribute to lowering ones blood pressure. This is not to suggest that you should start drinking if you do not already imbibe. More than the suggested amount can result in a rise of blood pressure.
Coffee and tea
Coffee and tea contain caffeine, a natural stimulant. Stimulants tend to increase the activity of the central nervous system which in turn leads to tightening of blood vessels and an increase of blood pressure. Caffeine however is a mild self limiting stimulant and excreted from the body within a relatively short time. There’s no conclusive evidence proving coffee and tea play any significant role in high blood pressure.
Medication is not always necessary in treating your high blood pressure; maintaining a healthy weight and paying careful attention to what you eat can go a long way towards alleviating your condition. However, note that before making any drastic changes you need to consult your healthcare provider.
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