Weekly Wellness: Blood Pressure Creeping Up? Do This!
COLUMBIA- According to some estimates, about 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure. While that is a scary statistic, even scarier is that only around half of them have the condition under control. That’s a dangerous situation for the other half, since high blood pressure puts you at greater risk for heart disease and stroke.
Normal blood pressure is 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, or 120/80 mmHg. If you’re between that number and 139/89 mmHg, you’re considered at risk for high blood pressure, and above that, you’re in the high blood pressure group.
If you’ve noticed that your blood pressure has been creeping up, here are some strategies to try:
KEEP MOVING: Over the years there have been loads of studies that link exercise to heart health. And the older advice was centered around a certain amount of time at a certain intensity. Today, the focus is more about just moving. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Parking further from the store and walking through the parking lot. Increasing your physical activity throughout the day will add up.
Movement of any kind helps lower blood pressure, and improves the heart’s ability to draw oxygen from the blood. That increases its efficiency over time. Ideally, you’d want to add some higher-intensity exercise into the mix, whether that means a brisk walk or swimming some laps, but everyday, regular movement is also highly beneficial.
REDUCE STRESS: One of the top modifiable factors for blood pressure is how frazzled and overwhelmed you are. When you’re under chronic stress, your “fight or flight” hormones like cortisol go zooming upward, and so does your blood pressure. That can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Of course, simply telling yourself to calm down isn’t always a useful strategy. Strategies that DO work are: getting better sleep, getting more fresh air, trying deep-breathing exercises, practicing yoga, trying meditation, starting a gratitude journal or even listening to your favorite music.
FOCUS ON HEALTHY EATING: It’s no surprise focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, good fats and lean proteins comes with major heart and blood pressure benefits. The Mediterranean diet appears to be one of the best heart-healthy diets one can follow. Food choices like avocado, olive oil and salmon help lower inflammation in the body, which helps blood pressure regulation and also allows you to better absorb certain fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR: So, you’ve done all of the above and you still have high blood pressure? It may be out of your control and you may need some medical assistance. Risk factors that we can’t control are things like age (your blood pressure tends to rise as you get older), genetics, your race or ethnicity (African Americans tend to develop high blood pressure more often than other ethnic groups), etc.
If these kinds of factors apply to you, or you’re simply not seeing improvement after a few months of healthy strategies, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor to figure out a potential treatment plan.