5 tips to reduce the risk of hypertension

High blood pressure is characterized by an increase in blood pressure that exceeds the critical threshold of 140/90 mmHg. This data is measured using a blood pressure monitor that evaluates the amount of blood pumped by the heart as well as the resistance to its flow in the arteries. It is possible to have high blood pressure for years without feeling any symptoms. Although sometimes asymptomatic, the harmful effects on the health of high blood pressure are very real. Indeed, high blood pressure affects blood circulation and could lead to serious health problems by increasing the risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, several preventive measures can be taken to reduce the risks. Here are 5 smart tips to prevent high blood pressure.

Limit your sodium intake

The Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec (OPDQ) ranks excessive sodium consumption as one of the main causes of hypertension. To limit its health consequences, it is important to find effective strategies to reduce sodium consumption daily. In fact, according to a literature review, reducing sodium consumption below the threshold of 2000 mg per day would reduce systolic pressure by 6 mmHg. Some people wrongly believe that they only consume very small amounts of sodium because they do not salt their dishes, but the majority of sodium comes from processed foods where it is used as a preservative and flavor enhancer. To find out if a food contains a lot or a little sodium, simply look at the nutrition facts table. If the percentage of the daily value for sodium is less than 5%, the content is low, while if this figure is greater than 15%, the food is high in sodium. To better control the amount of sodium in your diet, it is best to cook at home as often as possible while limiting the consumption of prepared, ready-to-eat, or restaurant meals.

Have a balanced diet

To lower blood pressure, in addition to limiting sodium intake, it is advisable to have a balanced diet. The DASH approach (the acronym for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) or the nutritional approach to stop hypertension, is strongly suggested and is not limited to people suffering from hypertension. This diet advocates the consumption of foods rich in protein, fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, such as nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Conversely, it is advisable to limit saturated fats and sugars. The beneficial effects of the DASH diet are accentuated when it is accompanied by a reduction in sodium. A meta-analysis reports that the DASH diet helps lower blood pressure in people at risk of cardiovascular disease in just 2 weeks. Another study published in 2003 suggested that if people with high blood pressure adhered to the DASH diet, nearly 400,000 cardiovascular events could be prevented over 10 years. 

Reduce your alcohol consumption

Alcohol consumption exceeding 2 drinks per day is said to increase blood pressure. Women should limit themselves to no more than 9 drinks per week, and men should be careful not to exceed 14 drinks per week. One drink corresponds to 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces (340 ml) of 5% beer, or 1 ½ ounces (45 ml) of spirits. Fortunately, according to the current state of scientific data, moderate alcohol consumption is not associated with cardiovascular problems such as hypertension. So there is no harm in having a good glass of wine occasionally when you get home from work.

Physical activity and weight loss

Obesity often rhymes with hypertension. Indeed, adipose tissues release many substances that act directly on the pathophysiological mechanisms of blood pressure. Consequently, weight loss, even minimal, can be extremely beneficial and significantly lower blood pressure.

Although body mass index is often used to classify people according to their weight, waist circumference may be a more effective way to predict the risk of hypertension. A waist circumference greater than 88 cm in women or 102 cm in men is associated with an increase in visceral fat mass surrounding certain vital organs. This type of fat is more associated with various health problems than subcutaneous fat, which is the visible type.

To lose weight healthily, it is recommended, in addition to maintaining a balanced diet, to take the time to move. According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, adults aged 18 to 64 should practice a minimum of 150 minutes/week of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. This is equivalent to approximately 30 minutes/day, 5 days a week. Brisk walking, cycling, spinning, jogging, or dancing are just a few examples of activities that can be easily added to your schedule. 

Limit stress

In recent years, the effect of psychological factors on cardiovascular health has been increasingly studied. Stress has been associated with an increase in the prevalence of hypertension disorders. To reduce the increase in blood pressure, the management of psychological factors is therefore favorable. Restful sleep as well as good stress and anxiety management are essential factors in limiting hypertension. Otherwise, keeping an organized schedule, and practicing yoga and meditation can be excellent complementary strategies.

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