With high blood pressure (hypertension) in his family history, Bill of Sherman Oaks, California was concerned when in his 50s his pressure started to climb. Hypertension puts you at risk for heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. Blood pressure (BP) often increases with age and most people are unaware of such changes because they are symptom-free. Bill’s doctor said he was pre-hypertensive.
BP readings contain two numbers, systolic (top number) pressure inside your arteries as heart contracts, and diastolic (bottom number) pressure inside your arteries as heart relaxes. The American Heart Association (AHA) considers the following range of readings pre-hypertension: 120-139 systolic, /80-89 diastolic. Readings of 140/90 and above are considered hypertension.
Bill had no other health conditions like diabetes, so his doctor agreed that he could try other measures before going on medication. Exercising 30 minutes a day allowed Bill’s heart to use oxygen more efficiently—the heart didn’t have to pump as hard.
“I fought taking medication by running and watching my weight. I ate lots of fruits and vegetables which are high in potassium, magnesium and fiber—all good for the heart.”
Bill purchased a home blood pressure monitor to track his progress. These habit changes allowed him to avoid medication for five years! Then his pressures rose consistently above 140/90—hypertension.
“My doctor explained the heart can wear out over time when asked to maintain a high pressure, so I needed medication to regulate it. I now take a small daily dose with no side effects and recently my pressure was 103/72.”
Lorie Cannon, RN BSN from Iowa Health Cardiology supports the use of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet that Bill and other cardiac clients use to reduce their pressures and control weight gain. DASH emphasizes reducing sodium (salt) because it can greatly increase the BP of persons sensitive to its effects. Statistically those more prone to hypertension include people middle aged or older, African Americans and those with family history.
Though small amounts of sodium occur naturally in foods, it’s the content in processed foods that is incredibly high. Check out the DASH diet: http://www.pennmedicine.org/health_info/hbp/hbp_dash.pdf
Dr Robert Schneider of the College of Maharishi Vedic Medicine gives this advice to help your BP: “Meditation, not medication.” Schneider researches the effects of transcendental meditation (TM) on BP. Repeating a phrase or mantra for 20 minutes twice a day can ease stress, lower BP and help you “…gain a state of restful awareness or alertness.” Go to http://www.tm.org/
Drinking alcohol in moderation, quitting smoking and checking in regularly with your doctor are also part of the journey to healthy blood pressures. Sweets? Try ½ ounce 70% cocoa dark chocolate with favanols to keep blood vessels elastic.
Bill continues to run and monitor his salt intake. He knows these habits will control his weight, reduce his stress and keep his doctor from upping his medication dose. Despite family history, he’s heart healthy.
man running photo thanks to Extreme_Tourist photostream