Did you know that at least 116 million American adults — nearly half the population! — have been diagnosed with hypertension (chronically high blood pressure)? And many more could be unknowingly living with the serious disease.
The reason hypertension can go undiagnosed is that it takes years to develop and doesn’t come with obvious symptoms. For this reason, doctors often refer to chronic high blood pressure as a “silent killer,” since even without signs of the disease it can cause lethal damage.
The board-certified providers at Wasatch Peak Family Practice in Layton, Utah, offer regular blood pressure checks as part of our comprehensive primary care services. If you’re diagnosed with hypertension, we create a personalized plan to help you get your numbers under control.
We also know prevention is the best medicine, and when it comes to hypertension, although some people develop high blood pressure without a known cause, most cases are related to lifestyle.
Lifestyle changes can help you keep your blood pressure in the normal range. To keep you in the pink of health, here’s a look at the lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent hypertension.
1. Eat for heart health and exercise daily
The foods you eat and whether you exercise regularly affect your overall health tremendously. So, it’s no surprise that eating a heart-healthy diet and moving your body everyday can play a big role in keeping your blood pressure numbers low.
Choose blood-pressure friendly foods, like fruits and vegetables, over packaged snacks. Start your day with heart-healthy options, like oatmeal or other cooked, whole grains and fruit. And before eating anything else at lunch and dinner, make sure you eat a big green salad.
You’ll also want to eliminate or drastically reduce your intake of salt, sugar, and saturated fats. The easiest way to do this is to choose a whole foods diet, eating foods as close to their natural state as possible and skipping canned, boxed, and ready-made meals.
Exercise is also important, so aim for about 30 minutes a day of cardiovascular activity (e.g., walking, swimming, jogging, biking) at least five days per week. If you’re just starting out with physical activity, take it slow and talk to your provider first.
2. Say ‘no thank you’ to alcohol
Drinking alcohol can raise your blood pressure, especially when you consume more than the recommended guidelines. If you want to avoid developing hypertension, try to avoid drinking alcohol completely, or save having a drink for special occasions.
If you don’t want to stop drinking, protect your heart health by sticking to the recommended guidelines and not going over. That means no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.
3. Find healthy ways to manage stress
Stress causes your body to release hormones that trigger your fight-or-flight response. These stress hormones get you ready to fight off an attack or run away from danger. As such, they influence your blood pressure and heart rate.
In the modern world, we face stress on a daily — sometimes hourly — basis. Even though we don’t need to physically fight or run away and hide, the stress we experience still triggers the release of the same stress hormones.
Over time, your blood pressure remains elevated, and your cardiovascular system can suffer serious or permanent damage. To keep hypertension at bay, be sure to find healthy ways to manage your stress, like exercise, yoga, meditation, journaling, talk therapy, and deep breathing.
4. Quit smoking
Smoking is terrible for your health in every way. When you smoke, your risk of developing plaque in your arteries increases. Plus, every time you use a tobacco product, your blood pressure temporarily rises.
To avoid hypertension — and improve your overall health — quit smoking. Talk to your Wasatch Peak Family Practice provider for personalized recommendations and help quitting.
5. Get regular blood pressure checks
Even with the best efforts, some people still develop hypertension. This could be because of a genetic factor or underlying health condition. Getting regular blood pressure checks gives your Wasatch Peak Family Practice provider a baseline for your health and allows them to monitor your blood pressure for signs of hypertension.
This enables you to get early treatment if you develop hypertension, which minimizes the damage done to your cardiovascular system and protects your health. You can also use an at-home blood pressure monitor to take daily or weekly readings and note how positive lifestyle changes affect your numbers.
To learn more about hypertension and the ways you can prevent it, schedule an appointment online or over the phone at Wasatch Peak Family Practice in Layton, Utah.