One third of us don’t know we have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, which is one reason it’s been gravely deemed, “The Silent Killer.” With no signs or symptoms, this highly preventable health condition is a major risk factor for heart disease (the #1 killer of women), and a slew of less suspecting health conditions such as dementia and chronic kidney disease.
You probably recall that familiar cuff and gauge that gets wrapped around your upper arm and squeezes tightly when you’re at the doctor’s? This instrument is measuring the pressure in your arteries every time your heart beats (systolic pressure) and every time your heart rests (diastolic pressure). A normal blood pressure reading shows that the blood is traveling easily through your body. If your numbers are higher than normal, it means your heart and blood vessels are working overtime to do their jobs.
Blood pressure goes up and it goes down. These variations are healthy responses to daily triggers such as physical activity, rest, stress, emotions and diet. But if it goes up and doesn’t come back down, it’s time to take action.
Take a look at our list of heart healthy habits. If you notice a healthy habit missing from your daily routine, start to slowly weave it in. Small, gradual changes are key to making healthy habits habitual and curbing potential risk factors.
Heart Healthy Habits
Eat a healthy diet. Choose nourishing foods and watch your salt, fat and alcohol intake. The Mayo Clinic suggests less than 2,300mg of sodium a day (1,500mg for people 51 years of age and older). Choose healthy unsaturated fats loaded with omega 3’s. And, cut down alcoholic drinks to 1 or less a day if you’re a women (of any age) or a man older than age 65.
Increase physical activity. Regular physical activity not only helps lower blood pressure, but also keeps weight under control. Start by increasing daily physical activity – mowing the lawn or sweeping the floor – and overtime, incorporate exercise that mixes both aerobic and anaerobic activities. Strive for at least 30 minutes a day.
Don’t let stress build up. Reduce stress as much as possible. Maintain a positive mindset, create new ways to relax and have fun, and incorporate deep breathing techniques and coping strategies. Most importantly, make sleep a priority.
Just say no to smoking. According to the Mayo Clinic, tobacco damages blood vessel walls and accelerates the hardening of arteries. If you smoke, seek support to help you quit.