Why should you care about high blood pressure? Your blood pressure is quite literally the force exerted on your arterial walls by your blood as it is pumped through your circulatory system. Since practically every bit of your body requires blood in order to obtain nutrients and oxygen and to eliminate cellular waste products, many of your organs can be affected by high blood pressure. The most vulnerable organs are those with the smallest of blood vasculature including the kidneys and eyes, but other areas of the body including the brain, lungs, and heart become more vulnerable as the pressure increases. This means chronically high blood pressure and hypertensive crises can lead to the following problems:
- Heart: heart attack, congestive heart failure, angina
- Arteries: aortic dissection, atherosclerosis (hardening of arterial walls due to fatty buildup in the walls), aneurysm
- Brain: stroke, CVA, TIA, memory loss
- Vision loss due to thickened, narrowed, or torn blood vessels in the eyes
- Fluid in the lungs
- Kidney: weakened, narrowed blood vessels in the kidneys; kidney failure
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Diabetes or worsening of Diabetes
Many of these are life-threatening conditions. Unlike malignant hypertension or hypertensive crisis which both occur suddenly and often exhibit significant symptomatology, you can have chronic high blood pressure and not even know it. This is why blood pressure screenings are so important.
What can you do about your hypertension or prehypertension? There are many lifestyle changes that you can make depending on the cause of your high blood pressure including the following:
- Stop smoking or don’t start: if you were not able to quit cold turkey try acupuncture, medication, hypnosis, patches, or gums.
- Engage in at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity: check with your doctor first to make sure your chosen activity is safe for you.
- Reduce sodium consumption: the American Heart Association recommends less than 1500 mg but at least 200 mg.
- Eliminate or limit alcohol consumption to only 1-2 for men and 1 for women daily
- Reduce stress: meditate, journal, exercise, see a therapist, practice mindfulness, and/or reduce exposure to stressors
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese: if you’ve unsuccessfully tried healthy eating and exercise, you may need to consult a professional—your PCP is a good place to start.
- Visit your chiropractor: chiropractic treatment may reduce physical stress on the body and improve nerve function.
- Drink hibiscus tea: this is a great natural way to possibly improve your blood pressure.
Once your hypertension is diagnosed, your doctor may prescribe medication to lower your blood pressure to a safe level. This does not mean that you shouldn’t concurrently modify your lifestyle. This is actually an opportunity for you to collaborate with your doctor to come up with a game plan for improving your health. Keeping your doctor in the loop about your lifestyle changes will also help him or her determine your visit frequency since he or she may need to adjust your dosage as your health improves. If you have any questions about high blood pressure, feel free to contact us; and if you have not had your blood pressure checked in a while, we can check it for you on Saturday July 12 between 1 and 4 at Tea Drops in Westport.