High blood pressure is referred to as “The Silent Killer”. According to the American Heart Association, over 100 million Americans have high blood pressure. The death rate from high blood pressure in the US increased 11 percent in the decade from 2005 to 2015, and the actual number of deaths increased by 38 percent. With our population aging, is expected to increase even further. To make the situation more dire, 1 out of 5 people who have high blood pressure are not even aware that they have it. 7 of 10 people who suffer their first heart attack have high blood pressure. 8 of 10 who suffer their first stroke have high blood pressure.
Most other risk factors that can impact high blood pressure can be changed through behavioral modification. These include smoking, diabetes, being overweight, being physically inactive and following an unhealthy diet.
So, given these sobering facts, what can we do on our own to improve our risk of high blood pressure, and possibly lower already high BP?
First, get moving! The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. The American College of Sports medicine recommends one of three activity levels. Either get 90-150 minutes of aerobic activity each week at 65-75% of heart rate reserve, 90-150 minutes each week of dynamic resistance exercise at 50-80% of your one rep max, or 3 sessions per week of isometric exercise, at 30-40% of maximum voluntary contraction. Now, exactly what does all of that mean?
Heart rate reserve is the difference between your resting heart rate and your maximum heart rate. A general guideline for determining your maximum heart rate is 220 less your age, so a fifty year old would have a maximum heart rate of 150 beats per minute. If you have not been in a regular exercise program, you should ALWAYS check with our medical professionals for advice and guidelines prior to beginning an exercise program.
Dynamic resistance training is like weight lifting or any slow, controlled motion against resistance that involve movement in the joint. Squats, military presses, bench presses and the like would be examples.
Isometric Exercises are those which your body exerts force against an immovable obstacle. Examples could include pressing against a wall, a wall sit or a plank. This option would likely be the slowest path to healthy of the three, but for individuals with certain physical restrictions, this could be a good starting point.
Nutritional habits. Logging your food daily is a great way to make sure you are staying on the right path. Make sure you are getting plenty of potassium, especially from leafy greens (check with your doctor if you are on any medication to control or prevent clotting, i.e. blood thinners) . Certain fish are great sources of Omega-3’s and Vitamin D, which can help lower your blood pressure. Garlic and pomegranates are also great adds to help keep your pressure in line. Keep your sodium intake at or below 2,300 mg per day. Eat fewer processed foods, opt for natural instead. Make sure your alcohol consumption is in line or less than the new guidelines just published. Make sure you aren’t consuming too much caffeine.
Lastly, monitor your stress levels and take steps to keep stress at the lowest possible level. Learn to meditate. Spend time on activities you enjoy. Try and determine the factors that tend to elevate your stress and reduce or eliminate them. Develop plans to adress life situations that cause you to experience high stress levels.
Remember, at the end of the day, you get one body and one life. Take steps to maximize your health and enjoy the benefits of a healthier and longer life!