Easing the Pressure: Steps to Keep Your Blood Pressure In Check

Day in and day out, you work hard. Whether it’s at a full-time job or part-time volunteer gig, you give it your all. You even put in occasional (or not-so-occasional) overtime.
Now imagine the demands your heart is under 24 hours a day, seven days a week, pumping blood into your arteries and then out to the rest of your body. Simply put, that’s your blood pressure. And if it’s elevated, it causes your heart to work harder and can cause damage to other parts of the body. It increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks, so keeping it under control is crucial. Luckily, that is as simple as 1, 2, 3.

Know Your Numbers
Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80; anything over 140/90 is considered high. If your numbers aren’t where they should be, consider buying an at-home blood pressure monitor.

Check your blood pressure weekly and, to keep your monitor honest, check it against your doctor’s once a year.

Eat for Optimal Flow
If you have high blood pressure (aka hypertension), the first treatment is to overhaul your diet. What does that mean? Reducing your salt intake and adopting the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.

This eating plan is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat, and emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk and dairy products. It’s rich in the minerals potassium, magnesium and calcium. But if you only make one change, cut your salt intake. “High sodium intake is a major factor in hypertension,” Hong says. To learn more about DASH, visit www.nhlbi.nih.gov and search “dash.”

Reduce Stress
By making the most of your free time, you can keep your blood pressure low. Regular meditation, for example, may have positive effects. And you don’t have to sit cross-legged to get them. Relax in a comfortable chair with your eyes closed and visualize a peaceful, quiet place or situation. Slowly tense and release each muscle group throughout your body.

Looking on the bright side helps too. Keeping a positive attitude and a sense of humor can lower your stress.

In addition, abstaining from alcohol and cigarettes will reduce your blood pressure, as will managing your weight. Make a point of exercising regularly-at least 30 minutes a day, five days of the week. It not only will help you keep the pounds off, but it also will counteract the effects of stress.

When All Else Fails
If you do all of the above and your blood pressure still doesn’t budge, don’t be discouraged. You may require medication, especially if you have a genetic propensity toward hypertension.

It’s important to be proactive about your blood pressure. And if you have genes for hypertension, then it’s important that you start lifestyle modifications and medication earlier so you can prevent future events such as stroke and heart attack.

Don’t Go Too Low
If high blood pressure is bad, then low blood pressure is good, right? Wrong. It turns out that lower may not always be better, according to a study presented at the American Society of Hypertension’s annual scientific meeting in May 2009.

After analyzing 10,000 patients, researchers found that low blood pressure levels may lead to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
How do you know if your blood pressure is too low? You get dizzy when you stand up and there are rapid changes in how your heart is beating-it starts beating very, very fast. Low blood pressure like that can be associated with something very serious like hemorrhage or loss of blood or bodily fluids.

Consult the Heart-Health Experts
To learn about the cardiology services provided at Gwinnett Medical Center, visit gmcheart.com


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