How to Get A Healthier Blood Pressure
Written by Eli Ben-YehudaOn March 31, 2019
What Is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is a common condition in which the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease.
Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.
You can have high blood pressure (hypertension) for years without any symptoms. Even without symptoms, damage to blood vessels and your heart continues and can be detected. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.
High blood pressure generally develops over many years, and it affects nearly everyone eventually. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected. And once you know you have high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it.
Hypertension is not only an important risk factor for non-communicable disease, but also is a major cause of mortality and morbidity all over the world.
What Are The Symptoms Of High Blood Pressure?
Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels.
A few people with high blood pressure may have headaches, shortness of breath or nosebleeds, but these signs and symptoms aren’t specific and usually don’t occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.
How To Lower Blood Pressure
Many physicians are using lifestyle modifications as the first line of defense instead of pharmacological intervention.
Lifestyle modification involves altering long-term habits, typically of eating or physical activity and maintaining the new behavior for months or years. Lifestyle modification can be used to treat a range of diseases, including obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. According to Joel Fuhrman M.D, from his book, “Eat To Live”:
Doctors learn in their introductory pharmacology course in medical school that ALL medications are toxic whether the patient experiences side effects or not. If we do not make significant changes in our lifestyle habits, taking drugs prescribed by physicians WILL NOT improve our health or extend our lives. I think those are very sobering words.
Making Lifestyle Changes
There is a saying that states, “Rome was not built in a day”. What does this mean and what does it have to do with lifestyle modifications? It means important work takes time. This expression functions as an injunction or plea for someone to be patient.
Getting healthy, losing weight, and making lifestyle modification will take time. We did not pack on the extra weight overnight and we will not lose it overnight, although some fad diets will make you think that you can.
Lifestyle changes are a process that takes time and requires support. Once you’re ready to make a change, the difficult part is committing and following through. So do your research and make a plan that will prepare you for success. Careful planning means setting small goals and taking things one step at a time.
The American Psychological Association offers five tips for making lifestyle changes stick:
- Make a plan that will stick. Your plan is a map that will guide you on this journey of change. You can even think of it as an adventure. When making your plan, be specific. Want to exercise more? Detail the time of day when you can take walks and how long you’ll walk. Write everything down, and ask yourself if you’re confident that these activities and goals are realistic for you. If not, start with smaller steps. Post your plan where you’ll most often see it as a reminder.
- Start small. After you’ve identified realistic short-term and long-term goals, break down your goals into small, manageable steps that are specifically defined and can be measured. Is your long-term goal to lose 20 pounds within the next five months? A good weekly goal would be to lose one pound a week. If you would like to eat healthier, consider as a goal for the week replacing dessert with a healthier option, like fruit or yogurt. At the end of the week, you’ll feel successful knowing you met your goal.
- Change one behavior at a time. Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time, so replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time. Many people run into problems when they try to change too much too fast. To improve your success, focus on one goal or change at a time. As new healthy behaviors become a habit, try to add another goal that works toward the overall change you’re striving for.
- Involve a buddy. Whether it be a friend, co-worker or family member, someone else on your journey will keep you motivated and accountable. Perhaps it can be someone who will go to the gym with you or someone who is also trying to stop smoking. Talk about what you are doing. Consider joining a support group. Having someone with whom to share your struggles and successes makes the work easier and the mission less intimidating.
Ask for support. Accepting help from those who care about you and will listen strengthens your resilience and commitment. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals on your own, consider seeking help from a psychologist.
Psychologists are uniquely trained to understand the connection between the mind and body, as well as the factors that promote behavior change. Asking for help doesn’t mean a lifetime of therapy; even just a few sessions can help you examine and set attainable goals or address the emotional issues that may be getting in your way.
Exercise: your key to success
First of all, you need to check with your physician before starting any kind of physical regimen. Although he or she will be thrilled at the thought it is always prudent to know you are ready. Since an active lifestyle is good for your heart, I am sure your physician will be pleased.
Next, ask yourself these two important question:
- What sounds like fun to you? We ask that question because by finding an exercise that you can stick to will ensure your success.
- Would I rather exercise by myself or in a group? Neither answer is correct, it really depends on your personality but some exercises are fun to do with with a group.
Types Of Exercise
Basically, exercise can be broken down into 4 groups. The four groups are:
- Cardiovascular Or Aerobic Exercise: This type of exercise program helps lower your blood pressure by strengthening your heart.
- Strength Training: Builds strong muscles that help burn more calories throughout the day. It also helps strengthen bones and joints.
- Stretching: Stretching will help increase flexibility which is something we lose as we get older. By stretching we increase our mobility which helps us keep moving. The less sedentary we are the better it is for our heart and blood pressure.
- Isometric Exercises: Isometric exercises, the kind where you contract large muscles without actually moving the body part, may help reduce blood pressure in healthy people.
So what is the best exercise to lower blood pressure? The answer is, any exercise that you can do will help you reduce your blood pressure. Whether it is walking, or rowing, the idea is to keep moving and get your heart pumping. Exercise helps un-stiffen those blood vessels and helps them to dilate and relax. When your blood vessels are supple and relaxed your blood pressure comes down. Exercise is not only great for the body, but research has proven that exercise also improves our mental outlook.
Habits You Want To Avoid To Lower Your Blood Pressure
You probably already know that smoking is bad for your lungs. Did you know it also makes you more likely to get high blood pressure and heart disease?
The nicotine in cigarette smoke is a big part of the problem. It raises your blood pressure and heart rate, narrows your arteries and hardens their walls, and makes your blood more likely to clot. It stresses your heart and sets you up for a heart attack or stroke.
It is one of more than 4,000 chemicals found in the smoke from tobacco products; it is the primary component that acts on the brain. Smokeless tobacco products (for example, snuff and chewing tobacco) also contain many toxins as well as high levels of nicotine.
What About E-Cigarettes? According to some studies, vaporizers can carry a risk of high blood pressure despite the elimination of tar and other toxic ingredients from the equation.
Nicotine from the vape juice causes blood vessel construction that consequently increases one’s blood pressure. Scientists also claim that people with a heart condition should not smoke or vape due to negative effects of nicotine on this organ. Also, this addictive substance causes damage to any vascular tissue.
#2 Watch Your Alcohol Consumption
Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels. Having more than three drinks in one sitting temporarily increases your blood pressure, but repeated binge drinking can lead to long-term increases.
Heavy drinkers who cut back to moderate drinking can lower their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by 2 to 4 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a blood pressure reading) by 1 to 2 mm Hg.
#3 Avoiding A Sedentary Lifestyle
Being overweight puts a lot of stress on your joints. Getting more active can help you burn calories and trim down — and reduce the stress on your joints. Build up to a consistent routine. Being overweight strains your heart, which can lead to a host of health problems, including heart disease. You don’t need to take off 50 pounds to see an improvement. Losing as little as 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure and begin to ease the strain.
Lowering High Blood Pressure By What You Eat
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 11 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. You can also follow the Nutritarian Dietary Approach by Joel Fuhrman M.D. Also I also recommend looking at the Pritikin Diet Approach.
It isn’t easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet:
Keep It Simple: Foods To Avoid
- Don’t eat anything with a face or a mother– This includes meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Yes, you may say that arginine and omega-3 fatty acids are great for a healthy heart and it is plentiful in fish. But did you know that it can be found in plants also? Try this for six weeks and see the results.
- Dairy Products– That means butter, cheese, cream, ice cream, yogurt, and milk-even skim milk.
- Oils – All oils, including virgin olive oil and canola oil
- Refined Grains– These, unlike whole grains, have been stripped of much of their fiber and nutrients. You want to avoid white rice, and enriched flour products, which are found in many kinds of pasta, bread, bagels, and baked goods.
- Nuts– I know what you are thinking, “But nuts are healthy” and you would be right to a degree, but those with heart disease should avoid nuts at least for the first 6 weeks.
Keep It Simple: Foods To Indulge In
- Vegetables– Enjoy as many vegetables as you like. It can be hard at first. We always picture the guy eating carrot sticks and celery, while people at the table are eating meat and potatoes. Get creative. Buy a few cookbooks that center and vegetable dishes. You would be surprised at the variety of veggies and the ways you can cook them. If you have high cholesterol avoid avocados for the time being.
- Legumes– Beans, peas, and lentils galore. There are so many different types of legumes to enjoy and not get bored with them. My wife and I enjoy adding lentils or garbanzo beans to our salad. I also made a wonderful lentil loaf with carrots and onions.
- Whole grains– There are a variety of whole grains that you can enjoy. The list is vast so I would recommend that you “Google” whole grains. I purchased mine at a whole food store. Such things as quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, millet, spelt, and whole oats.
- Fruit– Every week I do my shopping at the local farmers market. I find the fruit from the market, as well as the vegetables, are much more fresh and tasty. We also try to eat our fruit according to the season. A word of caution on fruit. Because of the sugar content of fruit, and yes it is healthy, we should try to limit our fruit intake to 3-4 servings a day. If you are diabetic the recommendation is 3 servings of fruit a day.
- Beverages– Such things as seltzer water, water, oat milk, and herbal teas. My physician recommended that I cut out all caffeine. I have also found that diet sodas trigger my atrial fibrillation if I drink them. Some of you may be asking about soy milk. This is a gray area and a choice you will have to decide for yourself. For myself, I refrain due to the phytoestrogens in soy products.
Monitor Your Blood Pressure At Home.
Anyone who has high blood pressure, or is at risk for it, can benefit from home blood pressure monitoring, especially for women with diabetes or kidney disease. You might also want to consider taking your blood pressure at home if your levels tend to fluctuate. Getting an accurate accounting of the variations will help your doctor better treat your blood pressure.
Home blood pressure monitoring can help guide your treatment by showing whether your medicines are working or if you need to take a different approach. A study published in March 2013 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes found that people who monitored their blood pressure at home were more likely to reach their blood pressure goals than those who were monitored only by their doctor.
How to take your blood pressure at home
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and exercise for at least 30 minutes before measuring your blood pressure.
- Sit with your feet flat on the floor, rest your back against the chair, and place your arm on a table or other flat surface. After sitting quietly for five minutes, wrap the cuff snugly around the upper part of your bare arm. The center of the cuff should sit over your artery (some blood pressure monitors have an arrow to help you with placement).
- With a manual monitor, you’ll have to squeeze the bulb to inflate the cuff, and then deflate the cuff slowly. An automatic monitor will inflate by itself when you press a button.
- Check the top and bottom readings on the dial or display window. The top number is your systolic pressure—the blood pressure when your heart beats. The bottom number is your diastolic pressure—the pressure in between heartbeats. Write down your blood pressure number each time you measure it so you can track it over time.
The American Heart Association recommends home monitoring for all people with high blood pressure to help the healthcare provider determine whether treatments are working. Home monitoring (self-measured blood pressure) is not a substitute for regular visits to your physician. If you have been prescribed medication to lower your blood pressure, don’t stop taking your medication without consulting your doctor, even if your blood pressure readings are in the normal range during home monitoring.
Left Arm Vs Right Arm Blood Pressure Checks:
Several studies have been done to determine what is a normal variation between right and left arm. In general, any difference of 10 mm Hg or less is considered normal and is not a cause for concern.
Why keep a blood pressure journal?
One blood pressure measurement is like a snapshot. It only tells what your blood pressure is at that moment. A record of readings taken over time provides a “time-lapse” picture of your blood pressure that can help you partner with your physician to ensure that your treatments to lower high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) are working. Don’t have a journal? Click here to download.
You Have The Power To Change
The most important aspect of change is that it starts within. If we only focus on outward change, then we will always be discouraged, confused, and even lost. If we allow those outward changes to bring opportunity, we can grow through them and become even stronger. Don’t be afraid to change.
By increasing those things that will increase our health, and avoid those things that we destroy our health we can lower your blood pressure. You are quite able to lower your blood pressure by following the advice we have presented.
Every human has four endowments – self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.
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