More than 100 million Americans have high blood pressure. As the American Heart Association puts it, that’s about half of all American adults. And while high blood pressure is a problem in and of itself, it’s also linked to other health issues, including:
- Heart attacks
- Heart failure
- Metabolic syndrome
- Memory problems
As for high blood pressure itself, the Mayo Clinic reminds us that “excessive pressure on your artery walls caused by high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels, as well as organs in your body. The higher your blood pressure and the longer it goes uncontrolled, the greater the damage.”
High blood pressure is defined as a systolic (first number) blood pressure over 130 mm Hg or diastolic (second number) over 90 mm Hg. Normal blood pressure is less than 120 mm Hg over less than 80 mm Hg.
Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure
Certain factors such as age, race, and family history can play a part in whether or not we develop high blood pressure. Fortunately, there are things we can do to lower our blood pressure and even prevent it from getting too high in the first place. By looking at the risk factors associated with high blood pressure, we can determine ways to avoid it. Consider this your guide to lowering blood pressure!
- Lose Weight: The more overweight we are, the more blood is required to supply oxygen to different parts of the body. Higher blood volume equals higher blood pressure, so follow a sensible, moderate diet — and stick to it! Even a loss of one pound a week can really add up over time.
- Exercise: Related to No. 1, exercise is beneficial for more than just losing weight and helping lower blood pressure. It also does wonders for our mental wellbeing. Just 60 minutes or so of vigorous walking each day is a good start to a healthier you. For one thing, it lowers stress levels — another factor in high blood pressure.
- Quit Smoking/Drink Less: According to the Mayo Clinic, “Not only does smoking or chewing tobacco immediately raise your blood pressure temporarily, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls. This can cause your arteries to narrow and increase your risk of heart disease.” As for drinking, it’s fine in moderation — one or two drinks per day for men and women, respectively. Heavy drinking will damage your heart health over time.
- Use Less Salt: Most people are aware of the connection between their salt intake and high blood pressure. But did you know it’s because salt (sodium) makes us retain water, which increases blood pressure? Wean yourself away from the salt shaker and use less salt when cooking. After a while, you may not even notice the difference in taste.
- Eat More Potassium: Potassium is crucial for helping our bodies balance the sodium in our diets. Not enough potassium equals too much sodium. So eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and legumes: bananas, cantaloupe, grapes, tomatoes, and fruit juices, along with health helpings of spinach, potatoes, beans and peas, and Brussels sprouts.
- Get Treatment for Sleep Apnea: many people who are overweight also have obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where they stop breathing many times a night. This causes a stress response and raises blood pressure. At Oregon Weight Loss Surgery we routinely diagnose sleep apnea with a home sleep study prior to surgery, and treat it with a CPAP machine if indicated.