Habits Our Blood Pressure Will Thank Us For Having
High blood pressure is known as a silent killer, which has gained tremendous prominence over the last decade. Today it’s estimated that nearly one in three Americans have hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure), though many don’t know it, because it doesn’t always cause noticeable symptoms.
While high blood pressure isn’t always easy to recognize based on symptoms, it certainly increases your risk of cardiovascular disease — so with the rise in the number of high blood pressure cases around the world, it’s time we take high blood pressure seriously.
Before we take a look at the top causes of high blood pressure and natural ways to help you lower your numbers, let’s first break down what high blood pressure actually is.
What is High Blood Pressure?
Most people get their blood pressure taken at their doctor’s office upon arrival, following height and weight. It’s nothing new, right? Your nurse and doctor are going to look at both the top (systolic) and bottom (diastolic) readings, but what do these numbers really mean?
The top, or systolic blood pressure is an indicator of how much blood is being pushed through your arteries and to the rest of your body. A normal systolic blood pressure is below 120, and anything over 140 is considered high blood pressure.
Diastolic blood pressure, which is the bottom reading, is a measurement of the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats and is being filled with blood as well as oxygen. A normal diastolic blood pressure is any number under 80, and numbers over 90 indicate high blood pressure.
So when you measure your blood pressure, the optimal reading would be 120/80. If that’s where you’re at, congratulations! You have normal blood pressure.
Top Causes of High Blood Pressure
Unfortunately, there is no single cause of high blood pressure. While one person may experience a jump in their numbers from consuming too much salt, someone else may have high blood pressure from stress.
However, we do have a good idea of what the top culprits are. If you are serious about getting your numbers into the normal range, being mindful of the things on the following list will help. Just keep in mind that no matter what the cause, treating high blood pressure is crucial.
Stress is also sometimes called the silent killer, because it can lead to a whole host of health issues that put you at risk of chronic disease. High blood pressure happens to be one of them. When you are under stress, your hormones go a little haywire, which can trigger a spike in blood pressure. If you are dealing with chronic stress, this longer-lasting spike in blood pressure could pose other health risks and put a strain on your heart.
#2 Too Much Sodium
Too many processed foods — not just the obvious culprits like chips and TV dinners — can cause a spike in blood pressure. Fast food, restaurant food, and nearly all prepackaged foods with labels often have exorbitant amounts of sodium. High salt foods can lead to water retention and holding onto too much water can lead to stress on the blood vessels, leading in turn to high blood pressure.
#3 A Lack of Exercise
Living a sedentary lifestyle can also put you at an increased risk of hypertension. Moving your body is great for cardiovascular health, but when you’re lifestyle is primarily sedentary, your heart works less efficiently. This can also lead to hypertension.
#4 Weight Gain
This goes hand and hand with a sedentary lifestyle. Weight gain also puts a strain on your heart, since your heart has to work harder the heavier you are. The good news is that being overweight doesn’t mean you have to suffer from long-term high blood pressure. With the right dietary and lifestyle changes, you can work to maintain a healthy weight and keep your blood pressure numbers in check.
#5 Additional Causes
In addition to these more well-known issues, there are other potential causes of high blood pressure, including: genetics, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor dietary habits, and age, each of which can contribute to high blood pressure.
Natural Ways to Lower Your Numbers
Now that we know about some of the most common causes of high blood pressure, let's talk about some natural ways you can lower your numbers. These are tips that are not only ideal for better cardiovascular health, but are also excellent for overall health as well.
- Consume an Anti-inflammatory Whole Foods Diet: A whole and nutrient-dense diet free from sodium-filled and fried foods is one of the best things you can do to help safeguard your health and prevent high blood pressure. Many whole foods on their own have even been found to be great for reducing high blood pressure such as garlic.
- Exercise Regularly: The human body wasn’t designed to be sedentary. Our bodies crave movement, so move your body daily. A little exercise can go a long way when it comes to getting your heart in tip-top shape.
- Reduce Your Stress: While some stress is inevitable, reducing your stress, even just a little, may do wonders for your blood pressure readings. Try to incorporate some form of stress reduction into your day-to-day life to help calm the mind and body and bring blood pressure down. Even something as simple as a 15-minute yoga practice or five minutes of conscious breathing, or aromatherapy with lavender essential oils diffusing is the ideal way to help level out your stress levels
- Cut Back on Alcohol: While some people may turn to a glass of red wine to help support heart health, too much alcohol may lead to high blood pressure. Alcohol consumption has been linked to elevated blood pressure so it’s best to keep alcohol intake very minimal or avoid it altogether.
- Watch Your Caffeine Intake: Have you felt jittery after drinking that second morning cup of coffee? This may be a red flag telling you to cut back on your caffeine intake. Caffeine can cause a sudden spike in blood pressure, so if you find that your body is sensitive to it, then it’s best to avoid it whenever possible.
- Enjoy Raw Cocoa: Need another reason to enjoy chocolate regularly? Raw unsweetened cocoa may be able to help support heart health due to its flavonoid content.
The Bottom Line
High blood pressure is a big deal and something you need to be paying more attention to if your numbers are off. Getting annual physicals, and even stopping to check your blood pressure at your local pharmacy is a great preventative way to protect your health. Try implementing some of these tips to lower your numbers. Lowering high blood pressure is one of the best ways to help protect yourself from cardiovascular disease.