High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a very common disease that affects patients of all ages. This condition occurs when the pressure exerted against the walls of your blood vessels becomes too high eventually leading to other health related problems. Chronic high blood pressure that is untreated can cause damage in your heart, kidneys, and brain.
While most patients will not feel any different if their blood pressure is high, some may start to have symptoms of headaches and chest discomfort. The American Heart Association considers a blood pressure less than 130/80 to be well controlled. Since this disease is so common let’s talk about five ways that you can treat your blood pressure including lifestyle changes and medications.
- Exercise: Healthy exercise regimen is the cornerstone of many medical treatments. Some consider exercise to be a regiment of high intensity weight lifting or CrossFit however a well-balanced exercise regimen of about 30 minutes a day of brisk walking is considered adequate. Those who can do more are recommended to do more. A well balanced exercise regimen should consist of a combination of cardio and weight bearing exercises.
- Diet: There are multiple dietary factors that can affect your blood pressure. For example, foods rich in salt can cause water retention that will elevate your blood pressure or alcohol intake has been directly related to elevated blood pressure. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and low fat dairy products have been shown to reduce your blood pressure. Foods to avoid include frequent intake of meat, sweets, and saturated fats.
- Weight loss: Our overall weight is directly connected with our blood pressure and health. For patients who have both high blood pressure and are overweight, the first step towards long term control of high blood pressure is weight loss. A reduction of about 10lbs in your weight can reduce your blood pressure by about 5-10 points. This is sometimes enough for patients to completely avoid medications. Healthy weight loss is key in treatment of blood pressure related to weight.
- Stress Reduction: Cortisol spikes and stress levels are directly related to elevations in your blood pressure. An important aspect of stress management is various techniques such as meditation and mindfulness. Additional factors such as supplements and medications can be used to help control stress levels. While stress is part of every aspect of our lives it is important to manage that stress and not let it cripple us.
- Medications: there are multiple different medications that your physician can start you on for blood pressure control. These medications can be added onto each other to reach in adequate control of your blood pressure. However lifestyle modifications including exercise diet and weight loss should be the cornerstone of high blood pressure management. Medications are simply there to augment these lifestyle changes and help prevent any long-standing organ damage.
Always follow up with your doctor about the best ways to treat your high blood pressure. Regularly checking in with your doctor may allow reductions in medications if your blood pressure remains well controlled.
Dr. Aamir Iqbal
Dr. Aamir Iqbal is a board certified Internal Medicine physician who focuses on preventative care and keeping healthy patient's healthy!