I’ve recently written a blog about lifestyle change for disease prevention and management. In this blog, I want to talk more specifically about the lifestyle changes needed to affect high blood pressure.
What is high blood pressure
There are two types of high blood pressure or hypertension. The first is essential or primary hypertension. With essential hypertension, the cause is unknown. Most people with hypertension have essential hypertension. The second type of hypertension is secondary hypertension. In this case, hypertension is the result of an identifiable cause such as kidney disease.
When checking your blood pressure there is a top number (the systolic pressure) and a bottom number (the diastolic pressure). Normal blood pressure has a systolic pressure of less than 120 and a diastolic pressure less than 80. An elevated blood pressure is a systolic pressure of 120-129 and a diastolic pressure less than 80. Stage 1 hypertension has a systolic pressure between 130-139 OR a diastolic pressure between 80-89. Stage 2 hypertension has a systolic pressure greater than 140 OR a diastolic pressure greater than 90.
Treating high blood pressure
High blood pressure can be treated with medications and lifestyle modifications. If you’re at risk for high blood pressure, you can prevent a diagnosis with lifestyle modification. But what are the specific lifestyle changes needed to improve high blood pressure? These changes include weight reduction, better nutrition, and exercise.
A normal body mass (BMI) is between 18.5-24.9. If you’re overweight or obese, a reduction of approximately 22 pounds can help reduce your systolic blood pressure by 5-20.
If you’re not sure what your BMI is, please follow the link to calculate your BMI.
I recently talked with a client who was once told by their physician, “Just lose 20 pounds and you’ll be okay.” JUST! Don’t you love that word? It makes it sound like losing 20 pounds should be so easy. However, truth is, it’s not. My client also pointed out the fact that physicians give you advice like that because it’s good advice, but rarely do physicians have time to follow up with patients on whether or not they lost the weight. Nor do physicians have time to teach you how to lose weight and keep it off.
This is where working with a health coach can make a huge difference in your life. As a health coach I recognize that you are the expert of your life. You have the ability to make lifestyle changes. My job is to help empower you to make those changes to improve your health for the rest of your life!
There is strong evidence that nutrition plays a role in preventing and managing hypertension. It is recommended that you consume a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products with a reduced amount of saturated and total fat.
A decrease in sodium intake will also help lower your high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet to all persons with hypertension.
On average Americans eat about 3400 mg of sodium per day. It is known that diets with increased sodium are associated with higher risks for high blood pressure. The majority of dietary sodium comes from eating packaged and prepared foods. The recommendation, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is to consume less than 2300 mg per day.
If you’re not sure how much sodium you consume a day, I highly recommend you keep a food diary for several days. Most people have no idea how much sodium they consume and if asked, they would more than likely under estimate the amount. Keeping a food diary could by eye opening. Knowing how to read a food label can help you better track while keeping a food diary.
Aerobic exercise can help reduce your systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The recommended amount is 150 minutes or more per week. The idea is to find something you enjoy and get moving! Aerobic activities include walking, cycling, stairclimbing, dancing and swimming.
Along with aerobic exercise, it is also recommended to add resistance training at least two times per week.
There are some hypertension medications that can have a potential impact on your heart rate response during and after exercise. Beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers can lower your heart rate, so when exercising, it’s important to change positions slowly to prevent dizziness. If you choose to work with a personal trainer or fitness professional, it’s important to let them know any medications you are taking.
Your weight, sedentary lifestyle, and poor food choices can effect your blood pressure and eventually lead to a diagnosis of high blood pressure or hypertension. Making changes in these areas can help you prevent and manage high blood pressure. Stopping smoking and decreased alcohol consumption are other lifestyle choices that have an impact on your blood pressure.
When a doctor or medical provider tells you to lose weight and make better food choices it can be overwhelming, especially if they don’t give you any direction. Working with a health coach or personal trainer can help you understand what these changes mean for your life. Ultimately, you are the one who needs to come to the conclusions of what needs to change. Working a professional can help you incorporate the changes into a healthier lifestyle for the rest of your life.
Untreated hypertension can lead to other chronic diseases such as heart disease or stroke. It is estimated that approximately 103 million Americans require treatment for hypertension. With 90-95% of people with essential hypertension (unknown cause), it is evident that unhealthy lifestyle choices are a big contributor to so many people having hypertension.
The first step is deciding that something needs to change. If you’re not able to make sustainable changes on your own, please seek the help of a health coach or other professional such as a registered dietitian. In health – Jennifer