High blood pressure, or hypertension, is known as “the silent killer” because there are often no symptoms. It is estimated that up to 25 percent of Americans have this condition, and about half of them don’t know it. This is serious; hypertension is associated with stroke, congestive heart failure, heart attack, atherosclerosis, kidney disease, disease of the retina, blood vessel rupture, and weakened memory and mental ability.
There are two main categories of high blood pressure; secondary hypertension is caused by other diseases and subsides when these are treated; primary hypertension accounts for 90 percent of all cases of high blood pressure and is due to lifestyle factors and inherited susceptibility. It responds well to lifestyle changes. These need to be made under a doctor’s supervision if a person is taking a blood pressure lowering drug.
The following are some methods to lower blood pressure:
1. Lose weight. Obesity is one of the most important contributors to high blood pressure. Sixty to seventy percent of hypertension is directly attributed to increased body fat.
2. Utilize a low-salt diet. The body must raise the blood pressure to enable the kidneys to cope with a high salt intake. Don’t assume that just because you have taken the salt shaker off the table you are on a low salt diet. Eighty percent of our salt comes hidden in processed foods. Read the labels; educate yourself on how much salt is in the foods you eat, and make a specific plan to reduce sodium intake to less than 2,000 mg/day.
3. Eliminate caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. All of these substantially raise the blood pressure.
4. Learn to control stress. The stress response in the body raises the blood pressure, and unrelieved stress keeps it high. Overwork and worry are major contributors to hypertension.
5. Adopt an aerobic exercise program such as brisk walking. Exercise at least 3 days a week for 45 minutes. Exercise strengthens the heart and enables it to pump more efficiently. A regular exercise program significantly reduces blood pressure.
6. Eat oatmeal and green leafy vegetables. These have been shown to reduce blood pressure.