In the United States about one in three adults has elevated blood pressure. Many people do not know that they have a problem, because frequently it can exist for years without any symptoms. It is, however, a problem that needs to be taken seriously, because it can (without warning) cause serious disease and even death.
Unless treated, high blood pressure can result in stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, and even blindness as a result of hemorrhage in the retina of the eye. Persons with high blood pressure have eight times the risk of stroke and three times the risk of heart attack compared to those with normal blood pressure.
In general, the lower the blood pressure, the better. Those having lower pressures live longer than those with higher levels. The incidence of heart attacks and strokes increases as the blood pressure increases.
There is no point at which the risk suddenly increases greatly. Therefore, what is termed normal or abnormal are arbitrary divisions. A reading of 120/80 is considered to be normal. However, lower blood pressures such as 100/60 may result in longer life. Normal is considered in adults to be up to 140/90. As mentioned, this is an arbitrary cutoff point. Between 140 and 160 systolic and between 90 and 95 diastolic is termed by physicians as borderline. Anything at 160 or above systolic and 95 or above diastolic is considered to be indicative of hypertension.
Factors You Can Control
Many controllable factors contribute to high blood pressure. Should you have any of these problems, be sure to take the proper measures to control them.
Obesity. If you are overweight, that factor alone may elevate your blood pressure; you should reduce your weight immediately. Reducing weight has been the biggest single factor (greater than even a low-salt diet) in lower blood pressure.
The proper way to do this is very simple: exercise more and eat less. Exercise has not been shown to be of great benefit in losing weight, but has been shown to be of great benefit in keeping the pounds off and not regaining the weight. If you find reducing to be difficult, here are some hints that may help you.
Eat a good diet, limit salt to one teaspoon a day, avoid high-cholesterol and saturated-fat foods, and use more fruits and vegetables.
Do not snack. This is all that most overweight people need to know to control their weight. By stopping your between-meal snacks, you can reduce your daily intake by several hundred calories.
Reduce the use of empty and refined calories. There are four basic food types that contain calories of this kind.
Visible fats. These are fats such as cooking oil, margarine, and similar fats that are visible in or on your food.
Sugar. Eliminate foods that are high in sugar, such as desserts, soft drinks, ice cream, doughnuts, and other between-meal sweets.
Refined cereals. Cooked cereals are usually better than commercial dry cereals. If you like dry cereals, use products such as shredded wheat, which are whole-grain and do not have added sugar.
Alcohol. Drinking alcoholic beverages can result in a surprisingly high intake of empty calories.
Reduce the use of foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol, such as meat, whole milk and cheese, hard shortenings, and eggs.
Eat a good breakfast. If it is necessary to skip a meal in order to lose weight, skip supper rather than breakfast. Two studies show that the same number of calories taken in the morning do not put on as many pounds as when taken in the evening.
Use food high in fiber and water content such as greens, carrot, string beans, and so forth, which will fill you up without putting on much weight. These are called low-calorie-density foods. It has been demonstrated that on a high-fiber diet one is satisfied with only 50 percent as many calories.
Exercise. To lower blood pressure, one needs continuous exercise of a least 20 minutes duration. Probably the best exercise is walking. Work up to the 20 or 30 minutes gradually. Before doing any vigorous exercise, have your physician do an electrocardiogram/stress test to be sure your heart can take it.
Stress and Emotion. Stress and tension may also elevate blood pressure. A good exercise program helps relieve stress. Also, take regular vacations, stop bringing your work home in the evenings, and consciously try to relax several times a day. Trusting in God’s care for you should help you not worry over the many problems of the day.
Salt. It may be necessary to reduce sodium in your diet in order to get your blood pressure under control.
The body needs only about a tenth to an eighth of a teaspoon of salt a day. It may be well to avoid salty foods. But more important, switch from all those packaged foods to planning meals from the fresh produce in the market.
Diet. Studies show that vegetarians have less tendency to high blood pressure. Some researchers suggest that reducing our or eliminating the use of meat in the diet may be the best therapeutic approach to high blood pressure.
Tobacco. Smokers are more apt to have hypertension. If you smoke and have high blood pressure, you certainly need to “kick the habit.”
Reprinted from Vibrant Life Magazine . All rights reserved.
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