Exercise is the soulmate to eating right. You’re more likely to lose weight if you exercise and follow a healthy diet. Official recommendations call for at least half an hour of exercise most days of the week. The effects can be dramatic: Blood pressure drops of 4 to 9 points. Remember that exercise isn’t just going to the gym. It can be gardening, washing your car, or housework. But things that get your heart rate up -- aerobic activities -- like walking, dancing, jogging, riding your bike, and swimming are best for your heart.
How the heart pumps blood into the arteries with enough force to push blood to the far reaches of each organ from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. Blood pressure can be defined as the pressure of blood on the walls of the arteries as it circulates through the body. Blood pressure is highest as its leaves the heart through the aorta and gradually decreases as it enters smaller and smaller blood vessels (arteries, arterioles, and capillaries). Blood returns in the veins leading to the heart, aided by gravity and muscle contraction.
Hypertension is a common diagnosis in medical practice and is usually considered to bear a serious connotation. Arterial hypertension has been described as the most common and important of all types of heart diseases.1 Yet the levels which constitute abnormally high blood pressure at various ages have not been accurately determined. The various figures now in use—140, 150 or 160 mm. of mercury systolic and 90 to 100 mm. of mercury diastolic—are arbitrary, particularly when age is concerned. The observation that many persons with high blood pressure live to old age suggests that undue significance is frequently attached to the degree of hypertension.2
If your systolic and diastolic blood pressure are in two different categories, doctors consider the number that is in the higher category. For example, if your blood pressure is 135/91, your systolic blood pressure is in the prehypertensive range and your diastolic blood pressure is in the range of Stage 1 hypertension. Your measurement or 135/91 would place you in the category of Stage 1 hypertension.
Unfortunately, this seems like a common scenario — medical guidelines recommend more aggressive medication use for minimal potential benefit despite potential harm. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggests the blood pressure guidelines go too far for low risk individuals, and the risk of harm outweighs the potential benefits.
Don’t get too excited. Turns out that dark chocolate (at least 50% to 70% cocoa) can give you a boost of a plant compound called flavanol. As with garlic, this antioxidant can raise your nitric oxide levels and widen blood vessels. That can make your blood pressure drop a notch. It goes without saying that a little bit of chocolate is all you need.
‘White coat syndrome’ refers to elevated blood pressure due to nervousness or anxiety when clients have their blood pressure taken by a healthcare provider. This occurs in approximately 20% of clients. Key message: have the client take their blood pressure at home with an automatic home blood pressure cuff and compare the findings. Alternatively, you can ask the client to sit quietly and leave the room while an automatic cuff takes a client’s blood pressure. The automatic cuff can be programmed to take three measurements and the blood pressure documented is an average of the three readings.
It is notable that relaxation and meditation, though useful for many purposes, have not been found to impact high blood pressure. Many people find this surprising, possibly since high blood pressure also is known as “hypertension.” Because of this potentially misleading term, many people have assumed that high levels of stress or “tension” are a major cause of “hypertension,” or high blood pressure. This is not the case. High blood pressure is an essentially mechanical, and not psychological, problem.
If you have hypertension, ask your doctor if OSA could be behind it. (In addition to loud snoring, common symptoms include excessive daytime tiredness and early morning headaches.) Getting your sleep apnea under control could be helpful for improving your blood pressure, says Robert Greenfield, MD, Medical Director of Non-Invasive Cardiology & Cardiac Rehabilitation at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA.
There are many popular medical myths about high blood pressure. For example, many physicians believe that high blood pressure is an “inevitable consequence of aging;” that the “only viable treatment option for high blood pressure patients is medication”; that high blood pressure patients must take their medications “for the rest of their lives”; and, worst of all, that high blood pressure medications are “safe and effective.”
For example, in a hypertensive patient with asthma, it may be inadvisable to prescribe a beta blocker, as these drugs can aggravate that respiratory condition. Similarly, in patients prone to constipation (the elderly, for example) use of certain calcium channel blockers might best be avoided -- along with diuretics -- as both these classes of drugs can inhibit proper bowel function.
You can have high blood pressure, or hypertension, and still feel just fine. That's because high blood pressure often does not cause signs of illness that you can see or feel. But, high blood pressure, sometimes called "the silent killer," is very common in older people and a major health problem. If high blood pressure isn't controlled with lifestyle changes and medicine, it can lead to stroke, heart disease, eye problems, kidney failure, and other health problems. High blood pressure can also cause shortness of breath during light physical activity or exercise.
Enlarged heart. High blood pressure increases the amount of work for your heart. Like any heavily exercised muscle in your body, your heart grows bigger (enlarges) to handle the extra workload. The bigger your heart is, the more it demands oxygen-rich blood but the less able it is to maintain proper blood flow. As a result, you feel weak and tired and are not able to exercise or perform physical activities. Without treatment, your heart failure will only get worse.
“We don’t think, on the basis of our study, that patients should stop taking their antihypertensive medications,” says Naci. It’s one thing to recommend that physicians start prescribing exercise to their patients, but we also need to ensure that the patients that have been referred to exercise interventions can adhere to them and so really derive benefit, he says.
Alpha methyldopa (Aldomet)* may produce a greater drop in blood pressure when you're in an upright position (standing or walking), and it may make you feel weak or faint if the pressure has been lowered too far. This drug may also cause drowsiness or sluggishness, dryness of the mouth, fever or anemia. Male patients may experience impotence. If this side effect persists, your doctor may have to change the drug dosage or use another medication.
Fish are a great source of lean protein. Fatty fish like mackerel and salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and lower triglycerides. In addition to these fish sources, trout contains vitamin D. Foods rarely contain vitamin D, and this hormone-like vitamin has properties that can lower blood pressure.
One side effect of diuretics is a loss of potassium, which is carried out of the body in urine along with the sodium. Potassium is needed for proper muscular movement and a deficiency of this mineral can result in fatigue, weakness, leg cramps, and even problems with the heart. So often, patients on traditional diuretics will be advised to take their medication with a potassium-rich food, such as orange juice or a banana, or they'll be prescribed a potassium supplement.
Women who are taking ACE inhibitors or ARBs for high blood pressure should not become pregnant while on this class of drugs. If you're taking an ACE inhibitor or an ARB and think you might be pregnant, see your doctor immediately. These drugs have been shown to be dangerous to both mother and baby during pregnancy. They can cause low blood pressure, severe kidney failure, excess potassium (hyperkalemia) and even death of the newborn.
Another important step is to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight elevates your risk for high blood pressure and many other diseases and conditions. Losing just 5 percent of your body weight can have a significant positive impact on your blood pressure. Studies have shown that the combination of exercising and losing weight improves blood pressure numbers even more than either one alone. It may seem daunting to lose weight, but it is possible. Talk to your doctor about how other people have done it. And consider seeing a weight loss counselor too. You can do this! And after only a few pounds of healthy weight loss, you should start seeing your blood pressure numbers drop.
As you age, prevention becomes even more important. Systolic pressure tends to creep up once you’re older than 50, and it’s far more important in predicting the risk of coronary heart disease and other conditions. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes and kidney disease, may also play a role. Talk to your doctor about how you can manage your overall health to help prevent the onset of hypertension.