When you go to the doctor for a checkup, they go through a list of routine tests. Among them is the blood pressure test. Most people have no idea why it is such an indicator of your overall health. Not only can it help to diagnose acute illness, but it is also instrumental to assigning who is at high-risk for long-term or chronic illness.
Your blood pressure is a number that indicates the way that your heart and arteries are working to supply blood to the body. As your blood pressure rises, your heart has to work harder to pump blood, and when it falls, your heart is relaxing. Although being able to vary from one activity to the next, a person has something called a baseline. Although things like stress, exercise, posture or sleep can alter your blood pressure, your baseline reading is when you are calm, sitting, and without stress.
Your blood pressure is important because it can indicate a plethora of health conditions. An indicator for heart disease, stroke, vision loss, kidney damage, or even fluid in the lungs, your blood pressure can tell a clinician a lot about your overall health. Long term, if your heart pressure is higher than 120/80, it can put undue wear and tear on the heart and lead to a decrease in the blood and oxygen reaching your cells and organs.
If you want to lower your blood pressure, there are five crucial things that you need to do.
The way to train your heart to work more efficiently is through exercising. Just like any other muscle in the body, your heart needs to be “worked” to gain strength. The thought of exercise can be daunting, do you run like crazy or do the insane ‘meta-shred’ programs that a lot of fitness magazines are recommending. I killed two birds with one stone using something simple a trainer friend of mine told me to do. ‘It’s not rocket science, just move more’. The moving more was getting on the stairmaster. I’d never really looked at it before, as I always saw people trudging up it slowly and thought to myself, ‘I’ll never get fit using that’. My trainer friend Jamie uses it solely to get ripped every summer. Spend 40 minutes a day at a speed of 6 and you’ll not only increase your stamina, reduce your blood pressure, but it will torch fat! To give you a visual of what this does, you’ll climb the Empire State Building twice. Imagine doing that each day! And I’m serious, I dropped two jean sizes in the matter of two weeks doing this. Disclaimer – you can’t eat pizza every night and expect the same results!
- Stop smoking
Seriously, who smokes anymore? And cut out vaping while you’re at it. If you are a smoker and need another reason to put your butt out, high blood pressure is an excellent one. Smoking is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure, stroke risk and lung disease. Don’t make your heart work harder than necessary, just put the cigarette down. Nearly half a million people in the US alone die from smoking related diseases each year. Nuff said. This goes for alcohol too, I don’t drink that much, but for those of you popping 10 beers or more in a weekend, you might want to consider switching to something less clogging or cutting it out for a while. The effects of alcohol on blood pressure can be intense. Having more than three drinks at dinner can increase your blood pressure to the point of concerning, and binge drinking on a weekend long term can have long term effects! I find the next stats laughable, but unfortunately it’s true – moderate drinking is considered 2 drinks a day for men and women under the age of 65. Anything above this is high level. So think about it, if you have 20 drinks in a weekend, you’ve outdone yourself for the week, and you’re a moderate drinker. This is still enough to raise blood pressure levels.
- Change your diet
“You are what you eat” is not just a phrase, it is a reality. When people say that abs are made in the kitchen, they’re spot on. But – don’t sacrifice what you love, put some research into it. Cinnamon has been shown to reduce levels, so I started sprinkling some on my coffee each morning. (I can’t get rid of coffee) I absolutely love peanut butter, it was my guilty pleasure and each evening I’d have a slice of toast with peanut butter on it, thinking what’s the harm!? At 200 calories per TEAspoon, there’s a lot of harm. I researched low fat peanut butter options and up popped PB2. This stuff is insane. I’m not kidding you, and I consider myself a peanut butter freak. Its dehydrated peanuts and 85% of the fat is removed. You put a tablespoon or more into a dish, mix with a little water, and you have full on peanut butter. I have to add salt for taste, but this has seriously changed my life, and it takes a lot for a product to make me say that. I can now eat this every day while packing on the protein with no guilt. I order it from Amazon.com and its delivered in a couple of days.
Cutting back on other weird fats also makes sense. You know what’s wrong when you’re putting it in your mouth. If it looks like it’s going to be fatty, it most likely will hurt your heart. Think about it this way – it’s October now. If you tried this diet a month ago, you’d already be here in the present, leaner and with a reduced blood pressure. Just try it for a month, and see where things get you. Oh and cut the snacking. We have a saying back home in England, ‘Little pickers, wear big knickers’.
- Up your fiber intake
Fiber works in the small intestine by binding to cholesterol and fats and flushing them from the system. Increasing your fiber will help to decrease your cholesterol. That will have a positive effect on your blood pressure. There are two different types of fiber, soluble and nonsoluble. If you want to help reduce your blood pressure and your cholesterol level, then up your soluble fiber intake. Non-soluble is good too, but more so for the gastrointestinal system.
- Reduce your stress
Chronic stress is something that puts a lot of tax on your heart and can lead to an increase in your blood pressure. Not only will chronic stress lead to an overall increase in your blood pressure, but it can also lead to behaviors that can make it worse.
When people are stressed, they have a tendency to crave high fat foods, drink alcohol, or engage in other unhealthy behaviors. Doing away with stress is impossible, but those things that create chronic stress should be eliminated when possible. There are some stressors like illness that you can’t do anything about, but other stressors like tensions related to your job aren’t worth destroying your health over.
High blood pressure can lead to a whole host of chronic health conditions. The good news is that small changes that you make can make a huge difference in your overall health. If you take heed of these five tips, over time you will see a dramatic difference not just in your blood pressure but your general health.