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Do you know that around 1.13 billion people in the world suffer from high blood pressure? Well, I didn't. If that was not all, then persistent high blood pressure or hypertension being a reason for a range of serious health complications, including heart attack, kidney disease, diabetes, loss of vision, dementia and other health problems is a big worrying factor.

The good news is that high blood pressure is treatable. Moreover, you can also prevent it through early diagnosis and healthy lifestyle. However, before that, let me explain what is high blood pressure (HBP).

What is High Blood Pressure?

Our heart is the most important organ of our body. It is a muscular pump that continuously pumps blood through the body. When this blood is pumped through our blood vessels or arteries, it exerts a force to its inner walls. This force is what we call as blood pressure.

Now, due to some bodily problem, if the force of blood exerted on the inner walls of these arteries is consistently high, then it is known as 'high blood pressure' (HBP or hypertension). Continuous high blood pressure puts a strain or pressure on the walls of these arteries, leading to a number of health ailments, some of which can be serious and fatal.

What are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?

When it comes to hypertension, most people typically do not show any symptoms. The very common signs and symptoms of high blood pressure i.e., headache, over-sweating, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and mild dizziness are often associated with common illnesses and hence mostly overlooked. This is why hypertension often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Untreated hypertension is dangerous, as it could damage the health and trigger other complexities, which can later turn life-threating. This is the reason why high blood pressure is termed as a 'silent killer'.

How to Measure High Blood Pressure

In order to prevent and even treat high blood pressure, it is important that you know the numbers. A doctor will typically use his stethoscope along with a sphygmomanometer to find your blood pressure readings. Today, even you can purchase a home digital blood pressure monitor to check blood pressure readings indoors.

However, before buying one, it is important to understand blood pressure readings. To start with, there are two measurements involved in determining blood pressure. The systolic pressure (upper number) and the diastolic pressure (lower number). These number are measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). It is only after you measure both these readings, that you can determine if your blood pressure is normal, elevated, high or hypertensive crisis (you need immediate medical attention in this stage).

To help you with this, I have made a blood pressure chart for you all. It shows the blood pressure measurements from normal to hypertensive crisis, according to the American Health Association (AHA).
How to Control Blood Pressure Naturally

Lifestyle changes help a great deal in not only controlling high blood pressure but also preventing it. Diet and exercise, which form a major part of our lifestyle can help achieve this. Remember, our aim is to ideally get the systolic blood pressure reading under 120. And, the best way to do this is by following the below-given ways to control high blood pressure naturally and safely.

1. Hold on to a healthy weight

'Lose weight' this is the first advise you will get from your doctor if you are overweight and have high blood pressure. Losing weight doesn't automatically ensure that you can get rid of high blood pressure. But, it does help considerably. Studies have shown that losing around 2 to 5 kg (5 to 10 pounds) of weight not only helps control blood pressure better, but also boosts the usefulness of any blood pressure medication you take.

So, make your priority to lose and maintain a healthy weight. And the two effective ways to achieve this is by following a more plant-based diet with limitations to fat and sugar intake and getting regular exercise.

2. Eat (less) Salt

The relation between salt (its sodium content) and blood pressure is undebatable. However, that does not mean that you ditch your salt-shaker totally. A little salt is more than ok, but eating more than the daily recommended amount can put your blood pressure into great trouble. Experts recommend reducing salt intake to less than 2,300 milligrams/day and keeping it ideally between 1,000-1,500 milligrams/day. 

Hence, while cooking or seasoning your food, make it a point to add less salt than you normally do. It will take a while for your taste buds to adjust to the new less-salt food that you prepare, but it is good for your health in the long run. 

Likewise, check the labels when buying processed and canned food items. These food items including your store-bought chips, fries, ready-made soups, pizzas and sauces contain high salt (sodium) and sugar. I know these are delicious to eat. But eating them less often or avoiding them totally is far far better than a health complication.

3. Follow the DASH Diet

World over, doctors and experts are highly recommending the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet to lower blood pressure. This diet emphasizes more on eating different vegetables and fruits, whole grains and also low-fat dairy products, fish, lean meat and healthy nuts. The DASH diet restricts processed foods and full-fat dairy products. Food items that are high in saturated fats are a no-go. Sweets should be kept to a minimal.

Currently one of the most studied diets - the DASH diet, as you can see is for everyone. Now if you are really looking to turn that blood pressure around, then the DASH diet is one of the best and healthy diets to effectively manage your blood pressure naturally. 

4. Eat more potassium rich food

Time and again experts recommend eating more potassium rich food to better control or prevent high blood pressure. Foods that are rich in potassium are known to reduce the effects of sodium and thus help manage high blood pressure better. Additionally, potassium is also know to help ease strain on the walls of blood vessels, which further aids in the reduction of blood pressure.

When it comes to increasing potassium intake, consuming it through your diet is highly advisable. In fact, there are many easily available food items that are a natural source of potassium. Some of them being fresh green leafy vegetables, beets, sweet potatoes, potatoes, tomatoes, avocados, beans, apricots, bananas, mushrooms, oranges, cantaloupe melon, grapefruit, coconut water, Brussels sprouts, raisins and dates. Additionally, low-fat dairy products and fish (especially tuna) also contain potassium.

In fact, a wonderful way of lowering the damaging effects of high-sodium meals would be to consume a potassium rich vegetable or fruit during every meal.

5. Increase your physical activity

One of the best ways to lose healthy weight and help yourself in the process of better managing blood pressure is by increasing your physical activity. Doing regular household chores, walking, cycling, swimming, jogging, dancing, rope skipping, playing any active sport and/or strength training exercises are some ways to achieve this. 

If you cannot leave the house regularly for workout, then a home exercise equipment can be of help. Aim for at least 30 minutes of any workout for 5 days a week. If you cannot set aside that much time at once, then try doing moderate aerobic exercises for shorter time intervals i.e., 10 to 15 minutes but thrice a day.

At the same time, if you lead a very sedentary life, for example if you are doing a desk-based job or prefer sitting on the couch than sweating it out, then it is better to begin working out gradually. Start with walking or swimming for 20 minutes daily and then build up your pace with the same activity and/or include other aerobic activities, which are suitable to you. 

6. Quit Smoking

'Smoking is injurious to health'. You might have read and heard this warning numerous times. But have you taken it seriously. No? Then it is high time you do so and quit this unhealthy nicotine addiction.....especially if you are a habitual smoker.

Studies show that cigarette smoking is one of the strongest risk factors and top few reasons for high blood pressure, heart ailment and lung disease. Regular tobacco smoking and even exposure to secondhand smoke is known to accelerate the build up of plaque (fatty substances) in the arteries, thereby making them narrower and thicker. This makes it harder for the blood to flow through them, thus raising blood pressure and heart rate and increasing the risk of blood clots.

To keep your blood pressure under control and lower your risk of cardiovascular ailments, it is best to quit smoking. Make this your prime concern and take needed help and support for your good health.

7. Limit alcohol

With respect to alcohol, consuming it regularly is known to increase blood pressure by several points, even in healthy persons. Moreover, alcohol is also found to interfere with the effective working of blood pressure medications, that is if you take them regularly. Hence, it is important that you either get rid of alcohol totally or drink in moderation (the second best option). 

Moderate drinking generally means up to 1 drink a day for women and a maximum of 2 drinks for men. To be on the safe side, it is best to consume alcohol only on special occasions and that too within these prescribed moderate limits.

8. Minimize Stress

Stress is proven to contribute towards severe high blood pressure, especially if it is chronic. Likewise, occasional stress is also known to raise blood pressure. Hence, the best thing you can do to lower blood pressure is by reducing stress as much as possible. You can do so, by finding the reasons that are stressing you out and reducing/eliminating it totally. Additionally, practicing healthy techniques to cope against it is ideal rather than adopting unhealthy choices like smoking and drinking and further damaging your health.

Practice relaxation techniques by doing yoga asanas, meditation, tai-chi or follow an exercise routine to lower your stress levels. Making time for hobbies/interests, learning to manage time efficiently, getting enough sleep, eating healthy and communicating with your near and dear ones are some good ways to keep your stress at bay.

9. Cut down on Caffeine

The role of caffeine in increasing blood pressure is often debated. A couple of studies indicate that caffeine could trigger a short but dramatic spike in blood pressure even in healthy persons, although not all people might experience it.

Popular beverages like coffee and tea have quite a few health benefits. However, reducing blood pressure is not one among them. To be on the safe side, it is important to watch your caffeine intake say health experts. For people with high blood pressure, experts recommend limiting coffee intake to 1 or at the most 2 cups a day. Likewise, avoid caffeinated beverages as much as possible.

By the way, if you want to know you are caffeine-sensitive, then drink a cup of coffee or any caffeinated beverage and check your blood pressure after 30 minutes. If your blood pressure reading shows a rise of 5-10 mm Hg than before, then it is very likely that caffeine affects your blood pressure. Go easy on caffeine thereafter.

10. Monitor blood pressure at home

Monitoring your blood pressure at home is one of the simplest way to know your current blood pressure levels, especially if you have hypertension or have high risk factors to HBP. Home blood pressure monitoring will also help you know if your approach towards controlling blood pressure is on the right track and the blood pressure medicines that you consume, are working for you or not. Moreover, it is also easy to get your blood pressure checked quickly at home and make immediate lifestyle changes than going to a clinic or hospital.

To get started with monitoring your blood pressure at home, you need to know the readings (chart given above) and buy an automatic digital blood pressure monitor at any pharmacies or online merchants. These digital monitors are quite affordable, easy-to-use and come with instructions. They are also portable and designed to measure your blood pressure and pulse rate rather quickly and without fuss. Some high-selling digital BP machines presently available in the market are Omron HEM 7130Fully Automatic Digital Blood Pressure Monitor, Dr. Trust Smart Talking Automatic Digital Bp Machine and Omron HEM 7120 Fully Automatic Digital BP Monitor. However, before buying any at-home BP monitor, read the reviews and then make your pick.

To conclude, the risks of ignoring hypertension or leaving it untreated can result in serious health complications including fatality. Hence, it is important to be positive and proactive and control your blood pressure through the above lifestyle changes, including prescribed medications if any. 

Disclaimer: The researched content and advice in this post is for informational purpose only. It is NOT a substitute for qualified medical advice. Please consult your doctor or specialist for professional guidance & help. 


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