It is not surprising that good nutrition positively affects health. In fact, poor diet and physical inactivity are the main causes of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Unfortunately, the benefits of eating well are not easy to notice day to day, and it sometimes takes a fear of health to motivate the lifestyle changes necessary for better health.
One fact that might surprise is that nearly half of American adults have at least one preventable health problem that is closely attributable to their eating habits and sedentary lifestyle. One in three adults suffers from hypertension or high blood pressure.
Hypertension occurs when the force of the blood flowing through the blood vessels is constantly too high. High blood pressure is sometimes called a silent killer because there are usually no obvious symptoms to signal damage to the circulatory system. High blood pressure can cause heart attack, stroke, and other health problems like kidney disease.
Some people with high blood pressure are prescribed medication to control their blood pressure. Exercise and a low sodium diet are also often recommended for people with high blood pressure.
A recent 16-week study of overweight and obese men and women with hypertension found that lifestyle changes may reduce the need for medication. Specifically, participants followed the DASH (Diet Approaches to Stop Hypertension) plan, a plant-based diet that emphasizes lean protein and healthy fats while minimizing the intake of salt, sweets and red meat and has been scientifically proven to lower blood pressure. Additionally, many participated in weight loss groups and regular supervised exercise.
Participants who engaged in the weight loss program, followed the DASH plan, and exercised lost the most weight and lowered their blood pressure the most, resulting in 85% of participants failing to do not need medication. Those who only made dietary changes also experienced improvements in blood pressure, but the results weren’t as strong.
The first step in preventing hypertension is knowing your numbers. Monitoring your blood pressure is key to staying in control and avoiding problems before they happen.
If you have high blood pressure, here are eight lifestyle changes you can make to help lower your blood pressure:
1. Lose weight around your waist.
Abdominal fat, which includes fat around internal organs, increases the risk of high blood pressure and other serious health problems.
2. Create a regular exercise program.
Do activities that you enjoy, but talk to your doctor first, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve been active.
3. Limit your alcohol intake.
Alcoholic beverages provide excess calories which can lead to unwanted weight. Keep in mind that moderate alcohol consumption can be up to two drinks per day for younger men, one drink per day for men 65 or older, and one drink per day for all women.
4. Improve the quality of your diet.
Consider adopting a DASH diet plan.
5. Limit sodium.
The daily recommendation is 2300 mg, but people with high blood pressure who are on a low-salt diet should not consume more than 1500 mg per day.
6. If you smoke …
â¦ Talk to your doctor about a serious plan to quit smoking.
7. Reduce your stress level.
Meditation, breathing exercises, ensuring adequate night’s sleep, and maintaining a manageable schedule are just a few strategies for better stress management.
Eat more foods high in potassium such as tropical fruits, green leafy vegetables, root vegetables, and beans.