You may often hear people talking about high blood pressure, but do you really know what it is? When we say high blood pressure or hypertension, we mean that the pressure within your arteries is higher than normal. Blood pressure is the force that your blood exerts against the walls of your arteries. It may rise or fall all throughout the day depending on your activities. When this pressure remains elevated all throughout the day, it is known as high blood pressure.
If high blood pressure persists over time, it can lead to many dangerous complications. This can create a high workload for the heart and can bring about atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. It may also increase your chances of getting a heart attack and stroke. Other conditions that can result from a persistently elevated blood pressure include congestive heart failure, blindness and kidney failure.
Blood pressure levels which are higher than 140/90 are known as hypertension. It is said that around two-thirds of people who are aged over 65 years old have hypertension. If your blood pressure is between 120/80 mm Hg and 139/89 mm Hg, you may be having pre-hypertension. If you have pre-hypertension, you do not have hypertension per se but you may be at risk for having it in the near future unless you do something to lower this risk.
For those of you who are aged 55 and still do not have hypertension, studies show that you have a 90% chance of developing it later in life. All of us are prone to develop hypertension at some point in our lives. Though both systolic and diastolic numbers are important, the systolic value gives a more accurate diagnosis of hypertension if you are aged 50 years or older.
So, how can you prevent hypertension? One way of doing so is to stop yourself from being overweight or obese. In fact, blood pressure is said to increase as your body weight increases. Losing even 10 pounds can greatly lower your blood pressure, especially those who are overweight or obese. However, you should be able to lose weight gradually at around ½ pound to 2 pounds per week. This can greatly offer you long-term success and is the healthiest manner of losing weight. Serving sizes also matter, so be sure to eat only a few servings. The healthiest way to lose weight is to develop an eating plan that includes a wide variety of nutritious foods. Yes, you heard it right: you must eat to fight hypertension! Eating the right types of foods can reduce your risk of acquiring high blood pressure and can lower an already elevated blood pressure. In addition to these foods, you should consume foods which are low in sodium because sodium can lead to blood pressure increases which can then bring more harm to your health.
So what foods should you eat to beat hypertension? Here are some examples.
Studies have actually shown that if you eat whole grains on a regular basis, you can decrease your chances of acquiring hypertension. If you have hypertension, consuming whole grains regularly can lower your blood pressure. Whole grains are grains that include the entire kernel of the grain which means that bran and germ are not removed by processes such as refining. Whole grains contain more healthy nutrients such as potassium, fiber, magnesium, iron, folate, selenium and iron. They aid in weight control by making you feel full earlier and lower elevated blood pressure by increasing your potassium intake. These foods also decrease insulin resistance and reduce damage done to your blood vessels. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should consume at least 85 grams of whole grain foods per day which is equivalent to three slices of whole-wheat bread.
Recent research done in Japan has revealed that eating chicken leg or chicken soup may actually help lower blood pressure. This is because collagen which is found in poultry has been found out to be broken down in the stomach into proteins that have the ability to lower blood pressure. These proteins function like ACE inhibitors, drugs that can lower blood pressure effectively.
Even the American Heart Association has emphasized the benefits of regular consumption of fish and fish oils. This is because fish consumption can prevent heart disease, stroke and sudden cardiac deaths. Fish and fish oil consumption can normalize heart rate, decrease platelet aggregation, reduce blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, prevent atherosclerosis and lower blood pressure.
Nuts, when consumed every day, can lower hypertension risk. This is because nuts contain more potassium, magnesium and unsaturated fatty acids along with low sodium levels. Thus nuts consumption can positively affect blood pressure and can decrease its risk.
To prevent the risk for hypertension and to lower elevated blood pressure levels, you should aim to eat at least five different portions of fruits. Fruits have a high potassium content which can in turn lower blood pressure. Aim for fruits rich in potassium such as bananas, oranges, currants and apricots. Slowly shift to eating fruits instead of cookies, chips and white bread.
Vegetables, just like fruits, also contain more amounts of magnesium, potassium and calcium that can do wonders for your blood pressure. Examples of blood-pressure lowering vegetables are starchy vegetables such as potatoes and sweet potatoes, legumes (beans, peas, lentils) and dark green vegetables (spinach, lettuce, broccoli).
– Marie G. Laguna-Bedia, Medical Observer
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