Maintaining a healthy BMI, cutting down the intake of salt, sodium, and eating more fruits, vegetables, and grains are all helpful in lowering blood pressure.
High blood pressure (BP) or hypertension is one of the biggest health risks for Indians, both men and women. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), as many as 10.8% of deaths in India can be attributed to hypertension. It is also one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and is responsible for premature deaths globally. Unfortunately, a large number of people in India are not even aware of their condition, and only a small percentage of those diagnosed seek treatment.
If you have symptoms like severe headaches, fatigue, chest pain, blood in the urine, shortness of breath, or dizziness, you should consult your physician and ask them to check your blood pressure. If diagnosed, high blood pressure can be kept in check with medication and lifestyle changes. In some patients, lifestyle changes are enough to lower their blood pressure.
New Delhi-based cardiologist Dr. Sunil Kumar Maheshwari recommends that women should get a blood pressure test at least once in six months, and not later than once a year, or whenever they experience these symptoms — headaches, palpitations, anxiety, or panic.
He says that high blood pressure can put people at risk for heart disease. “Any woman who has hypertension during her pregnancy, if she has developed hypertension or a raised blood sugar level, or if she is a smoker, or if she is overweight, she should be careful…If a woman is maintaining two jobs — working somewhere and working as a housewife as well — she should be more aware and more careful. If she has any of these symptoms, she should go to the doctor and get herself checked,” says Dr. Maheshwari.
Unfortunately, a large number of people in India are not even aware of their condition, and only a small percentage of those diagnosed seek treatment.
Five ways to keep hypertension under control
1. Lose weight and stay active
Obesity is an important risk factor for hypertension. It is, therefore, crucial to shed a few pounds and aim towards a normal Body Mass Index (BMI) to control high blood pressure. Research says that blood pressure can be lowered by about 1 mm Hg for every 1 kg of reduction in body weight.
Different studies show a reduction of blood pressure by 5 to 15 mm Hg from moderate exercise. Activities such as walking, jogging or swimming for about 30 to 45 minutes everyday is beneficial for BP patients.
2. Cutting down on salt
Even moderate reduction in our daily intake of salt is helpful in lowering the blood pressure. Cutting down salt from about 9-12 grams a day to less than 5-6 g/day, as recommended by the World health organisation has major benefits for our cardiovascular health.
3. Lower your sodium intake
Reducing the intake of sodium in your diet can help decrease blood pressure as well as risks associated with cardiovascular diseases. It is important to know that sodium doesn’t just come from salty snacks but from a large number of packaged and processed foods like pizzas, sandwiches, cold cuts, burritos, processed chicken, chips, pretzels etc. Eating less packaged and processed food, reading labels to check the sodium content, and eating meals at home which include grains, vegetables, fruits can reduce systolic blood pressure. The WHO recommends limiting sodium intake to about 2 g per day.
4. Go easy on the alcohol
Alcohol consumption increases blood pressure by as much as about 1 mm Hg for every 10 g of alcohol consumed. The good news is that it can be reversed by 2-4 weeks of abstinence. However, people can drink in moderation—less than two drinks a day for men and less than a drink a day for women.
Alcohol consumption increases blood pressure by as much as about 1 mm Hg for every 10 g of alcohol consumed. The good news is that it can be reversed by 2-4 weeks of abstinence.
5. Stop smoking
Cigarette smoking is detrimental to cardiovascular health; it can increase the formation of plaque in blood vessels and is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease. Excessive smoking can lead to an acute increase in BP and is associated with malignant hypertension. There is no safe limit for smoking. For BP patients, it is safest to quit altogether.
Cutting down on sugary and high carb foods, eating calcium, magnesium, and potassium-rich foods, which help your blood vessels relax, and cutting down on caffeine are also helpful in managing hypertension. However, lifestyle changes aren’t enough for all patients who need to supplement these with medication.
Here is a short video from British Heart Foundation that takes you through the basics of measuring your blood pressure at home.
- Hypertension screening, awareness, treatment, and control in India: A nationally representative cross-sectional study among individuals aged 15 to 49 years – Jonas Prenissl, Jennifer Manne-Goehler, Lindsay M. Jaacks, Dorairaj Prabhakaran, Ashish Awasthi, Anne Christine Bischops, Rifat Atun, Till Bärnighausen, Justine I. Davies, Sebastian Vollmer, Pascal Geldsetzer
- Hypertension: The Silent Killer – Indian Council of Medical Research, Department of Health Research – Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
- 2017 Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults – American College of Cardiology
- Aerobic Exercise Reduces Blood Pressure in Resistant Hypertension – Fernando Dimeo, Nikolaos Pagonas, Felix Seibert, Robert Arndt, Walter Zidek, Timm H. Westhoff
- Association Between Smoking and Blood Pressure, Evidence From the Health Survey for England – Paola Primatesta, Emanuela Falaschetti, Sunjai Gupta, Michael G. Marmot, and Neil R. Poulter
- Alcohol is bad for blood pressure –Ian B Puddey Lawrence J Beilin
- Sodium Intake and Hypertension – Andrea Grillo,1 Lucia Salvi, Paolo Coruzzi, Paolo Salvi, and Gianfranco Parati
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