Regardless of why someone may have high blood pressure, it is essential that it be managed effectively. Left untreated, high blood pressure can cause memory loss, heart disease, kidney failure, seizure and stroke.
There are several ways to limit control hypertension. These include diet, exercise and medication.
High Blood Pressure Diet
Individuals who have high blood pressure are encouraged to go on a DASH diet. This “Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension” involves limiting fats, processed foods, salt and sweets. Instead, meals should be composed mainly of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
In addition to the DASH diet, research has shown that certain foods may affect blood pressure.
Potassium: Studies have shown that potassium plays an important role in reduces blood pressure. Those with high blood pressure should ensure they get the recommended 4,700 mg of potassium each day. Foods that are naturally high in potassium include:
- root vegetables
- spinach and other greens
Oatmeal: Other research indicates that oatmeal may help lower blood pressure. In clinical studies, as many as 70% of participants reduced their blood pressure by eating oatmeal daily.
Alcohol: In terms of blood pressure, drinking alcohol can be both good and bad. Small to moderate amounts of alcohol can actually reduce your blood pressure. However, anything above that amount will have the opposite effect. Women should have no more than one drink a day while men should limit themselves to two.
Caffeine: Those with hypertension are also advised to limit their caffeine consumption. Some research indicates that caffeine use can have a long-term effect on blood pressure. However, not everyone reacts to caffeine in the same way. Checking blood pressure readings 30 minutes after drinking caffeine can help gauge whether a particular individual should avoid caffeinated beverages.
Salt:The number one dietary culprit for high blood pressure is salt. Unfortunately, most American diets are loaded with sodium. Those with high blood pressure should avoid processed foods that contain added salt and limit their intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day.
Lifestyle Changes to Lower Blood Pressure
In addition to making changes in their diet, hypertension patients should also consider the following lifestyle changes…
Regular exercise:Obese individuals are more likely to have high blood pressure. To reduce readings, medical professionals recommend 30 minutes of aerobic activity each day. As a person’s weight drops so too will their blood pressure.
Quit Smoking:Each cigarette can raise blood pressure for up to an hour. For those who smoke throughout the day, they risk elevating their pressure readings by 10 points or more. In addition, tobacco products have been shown to reduce the effectiveness of some high blood pressure medications.
Change Birth Control: Women with hypertension who take birth control pills may want to discuss other options with their health care provider. Birth control pills may negatively affect blood pressure readings.
Blood Pressure Medication
While diet and lifestyle changes can dramatically lower blood pressure, sometimes they are not enough. In addition, those with very high blood pressure readings should not wait for dietary and lifestyle changes to take effect. Patients with extremely high readings should take medication immediately to reduce pressure on the brain and avoid the possibility of stroke. You can also consider taking natural treatment for high blood pressure.
There are literally hundreds of high blood pressure medications available. Since everyone responds to medication differently, doctors must work closely with patients to find the right combination of drugs.
Some of the more popular high blood pressure medicines fall into the following categories:
Diuretics: Also known as water pills, these medicines help the kidneys flush water and salt from the body. The overall volume of blood in the body is reduced which lowers the pressure on arteries.
Alpha-Blockers: Alpha-blockers work by relaxing blood vessels to allow blood to flow more easily.
Beta-Blockers: These drugs slow down the heart to reduce blood pressure. While effective, they may cause dizziness and drowsiness.
ACE Inhibitors:Like alpha-blockers, ACE inhibitors relax blood vessels.
Calcium Blockers: Similar to alpha-blockers and ACE inhibitors, calcium blockers prevent blood vessels from tightening. Some drugs in this class may also slow heart rates.
While medication can be very effective alone, it is best used as part of a comprehensive strategy to control hypertension. Those struggling with high blood pressure should consult with a physician to determine the right combination of medication, diet and lifestyle changes necessary to maintain their health.