Many people have health problems nowadays. Some are not even aware of their conditions. They don’t feel well but aren’t sure why. An issue of increasing concern is blood pressure. The term “hypertension” is the medical reference for a condition that increases your risk for heart attack or stroke. Data shows that after age 60, you might develop high blood pressure, even if you haven’t had it in your younger mid-life years.
Understanding how a blood pressure cuff works and what the numbered results mean is a first step toward better health. If your numbers are too high, you’ll be glad to know that there are several types of food that can help get your condition under control. Many people take medication, as well. Some people have been able to avoid that by improving their health as soon as their numbers start to rise. With better food and lifestyle choices, it’s sometimes possible to go without prescription drugs.
Systolic versus diastolic blood pressure
Your blood pressure is shown as a fraction in your medical records. One number is documented on top, with a line separating it from a bottom number. When reading the numbers, a doctor, nurse, paramedic, etc., will announce the top number first. This number reflects your systolic blood pressure. It measures how much pressure is in your arteries when your heart beats and pumps blood into them.
The bottom number in your reading is diastolic blood pressure. This measurement records how much pressure is in your arteries in between heartbeats. The interim between heartbeats is when your heart muscle relaxes. Blood moves through the arteries back into the chambers of the heart.
Which numbers would mean that you have hypertension?
Medical experts say that the average healthy adult should have a blood pressure of 120/80 or less. Once your top number reaches 130, it is considered the early stage of hypertension. If your reading is 140/90 or higher, you have entered the second stage of this health condition, which places you at risk for heart attack or stroke.
Even if you “feel okay,” numbers in the high range are not something you want to ignore. The older we get, the more likely it is that hypertension will have severe negative effects on our health. As soon as you get a test result that places your numbers in an early phase, it’s time to make some changes, especially with diet.
Eating these blood-pressure friendly foods might help
The following list includes foods you’ll want to eat on a regular basis to help control blood pressure:
- Whole grains
- Fresh vegetables
- Fresh fruit
- Olive oil
Getting plenty of these foods daily has been shown to help get systolic and diastolic blood pressure under control. There are also certain foods a person with hypertension will want to avoid.
Table salt makes hypertension worse
Everyday table salt is not healthy to eat, especially if you have high blood pressure. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to cut out salt altogether from your diet. Salts that are in a purer form, such as Celtic sea salt or pink Himalayan salt are much lower in sodium than table salt. In fact, studies show that incorporating these salts into the diet is a safe alternative for people who have hypertension.
Steer clear of highly processed food, especially meats and alcohol
The healthiest diet is one that is primarily made up of whole foods. The more processed a food is, particularly meats, the less healthy it is to eat. If you have high blood pressure, it’s best to avoid highly processed meats, such as hot dogs, deli meats or sausages. Canned foods and fast food are loaded with sodium. For example, one Big Mac from McDonald’s has more than 1,000 mg of sodium. Soup that comes in a can is another high-sodium food item. It’s easy to make your own soup or a healthier burger at home.
Alcohol raises blood pressure. It doesn’t matter if you’re drinking wine or beer or liquor. If you aren’t going to abstain from alcohol altogether, it’s best to limit yourself to one drink in a 24-hour period. If you imbibe more than this, it could cause your blood pressure numbers to veer into the unhealthy range.
A sedentary lifestyle is disastrous for your health
This article from our archives on The Hot Mess Press explains why being sedentary (not moving around enough during the day) is bad for your health. This is especially true for people who have been diagnosed with hypertension. It is easy to rectify this situation. Simply commit to taking a half-hour walk, at least four or five days per week. Your health may improve even more if you participate in additional physical activities, such as riding a bike, playing a sport, dancing or lifting weights. No one’s saying you have to go full-tilt and start running marathons. Just make sure you get on your feet and engage in physical activity that moves your whole body, every day.
Being active helps maintain a healthy weight, as well. Obesity is a major problem in the United States. Gaining control of weight is beneficial to anyone who is trying to get blood pressure under control. Prolonged stress is another factor that can make hypertension worse. Learning what your triggers are and how to alleviate stress can put you on a path toward better health.