Why is my blood pressure so high, how to lower blood pressure naturally? That is a question asked by a lot of people in their quest to be an ideal blood pressure. What is the ideal blood pressure? If you are a healthy person under the age of 60, anything under 140 (systolic or top number)/ 90 (diastolic or bottom number) is acceptable. Based on how many other medical conditions you have going on, that number can change.
Being a family medicine physician, it requires me to become an expert in the field of blood pressure control as this is one of the most prevalent health care issues facing Americans today.
According to the CDC, about 75 million Americans (1 out of 3) currently have high blood pressure. Those living in the South are at the highest risk while those living on the West coast are the lowest as you can see in the map below.
Of those 75 million, only about half (54%) have adequate control of their blood pressure. Why is this important? Complications of high blood pressure end up costing our healthcare system over 48.6 billion dollars annually! This is including healthcare costs as well as productivity lost from people missing work.
The kicker is that high blood pressure is something that can be prevented in most people! So, let us explore what high blood pressure actually means and discuss a few ways to lower it.
Why Blood Pressure Control is Important for You
If you are reading this article, I am assuming someone has told you that your blood pressure is high or someone you know has high blood pressure. Either way, thank you for reading and let me explain to you the main reasons it is important to keep your blood pressure controlled.
THE COMPLICATIONS CAN KILL YOU or SEVERELY HARM YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE!
Stroke- High blood pressure makes it harder for the blood to flow properly. That can be a problem as organs depend on this vital blood flow for oxygen and nutrients.
As the pressure gets higher and higher, some organs can have a hard time making sure they get enough blood. The brain is an organ that is very sensitive to low blood flow as it causes the death of brain cells in only 6 minutes.
If the blood pressure remains elevated for too long, less and less blood flow will get to the brain until you get to a point where there is no blood going to a certain part of the brain. When the brain does not get any oxygen and gets damaged, it is called a stroke and it is a medical emergency!
The worst part about strokes is that once the brain cells are dead, they cannot come back. That is why you see people suffer the after-effects of strokes (weakness or unable to speak properly) long after it is over. Please make sure you are taking care of your blood pressure long before this.
Heart Attacks- When the brain does not get any oxygen or nutrients, a stroke happens. When the heart does not get oxygen or nutrients, you have a heart attack. These are two sides of the same coin and the reason they happen is the same.
In addition, as the blood pressure gets higher, our heart pumps harder in order to make sure the blood flows to our organs. If our heart has to keep working harder and harder, it can be predisposed into early heart failure.
Yikes, heart failure and heart attacks are very scary but luckily, there is a lot we can do to prevent those, one of the main ones is blood pressure control.
Peripheral Artery Disease- Having high blood pressure puts a strain on the blood vessels. The blood vessels will eventually become damaged and predisposing the body to atherosclerosis (hardening of the blood vessels) and form plaques of fat/debris.
This can commonly happen in the vessels around the leg (femoral/popliteal). When this happens, less blood flow gets to the legs, which can cause pain, swelling, or loss of function to the point where amputation may be necessary if enough cells die. If enough of the cells die, the only option left is to amputate whatever part of limb has died. This is hastened if someone also has poorly controlled diabetes.
The costs of high blood pressure come from the recurrent doctor visits, buying blood pressure lowering medication, and home testing kits can cost you a pretty penny.
According to the American Heart Association, people with high blood pressure pay almost $2,000 more on annual healthcare costs and spend nearly 3X on prescription medications. Let us avoid that by making sure we are spending appropriate money on our health maintenance early. I do not know about you all but I cannot afford to be that sick.
5 Ways to Control your Blood Pressure
Maintain a Healthy Weight
The most important and I repeat the NUMBER 1 way to reduce your risk of high blood pressure. Studies have shown that there is a direct link between obesity (BMI over 35) and high blood pressure. Among other things, obesity puts you at increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, infertility, asthma, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
This risk factor is the most modifiable next to smoking and most people just need to form a concentric plan with their healthcare professional to attack their weight.
To spoil the surprise, the best way to accomplish this is a combination of diet and exercise, a groundbreaking secret…
Stop Smoking and Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for the body! It damages your blood vessel walls, leads to the formation of atherosclerotic plaques, and forces your heart to pump harder. Stopping smoking is not an easy task as it usually takes multiple attempts to stop, that is why help from medical professionals should be elicited.
In moderation, a little bit of beer or red wine is harmless, however abusing it will lead to problems. Concerning blood pressure, too much alcohol will lead to increased levels of triglycerides (bad fat) that can make up those plaques that block our blood vessels.
Women should not drink more than 10 drinks per week and the limit for men is 14.
Heart-friendly foods include lean fish and meats, high fiber grains (oats, barley, quinoa), fruits, and vegetables.
When it comes to protecting your heart and your blood vessels, you want foods that are low in saturated fats, sugar, and salt. The fats and sugars cause atherosclerosis and the salt makes you retain more fluid.
Heart unfriendly foods include saturated fats (especially those high in triglycerides), alcohol, sugar, and salt. In moderation, most of these will not be the end of you but an excess of these junk foods can cause problems down the line.
Another key thing to do is to replace all sugary drinks and beverages with water.
Blood Pressure Drugs
This is the solution for those in which diet and exercise are not enough to establish proper blood pressures. Every year the Joint National Committee (JNC) makes changes and is constantly updating the definition and treatment of hypertension (see figure below). Some of the common blood pressure medications include:
- Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors
- Angiotensin Receptor Blocker (ARB) Inhibitors
- Beta Blockers
- Calcium Channel Blockers
- Diuretics (Thiazide Diuretics, Loop Diuretics)
*If you feel like your blood pressure is remaining high despite diet and exercise, please talk about this with your local physician or healthcare provider
* Risk factors for diabetes include: family history, obesity, increasing age, sedentary lifestyle, Hispanic/African American ethnicity, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Diabetes and hypertension are a deadly combination. The reason is that diabetes raises your risk of developing high blood pressure because the extra sugar damages the blood vessels.
The damaged blood vessels will undergo inflammation and the formation of new atherosclerotic plaques. That makes it harder for the heart to pump blood leading to chronically high blood pressures.
Luckily, the same steps for preventing high blood pressure are the same for preventing diabetes. Eating and drinking well, living a moderately active lifestyle, and making sure you are regularly seeing a healthcare provider.
*If you feel like you are high risk for diabetes or having symptoms (fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, drinking a lot of water, urinating frequently) please get in contact with your health provider.
“This article is for information purposes only and not meant to diagnose or treat any medical condition. If you have any questions about what you have read, please discuss them with your healthcare professional”
Dr. CHRISTIAN-JEVON BRAMWELL MD
Christian Bramwell, MD uses his own weight loss story as teaching for people struggling with their own weight through blogging, teaching, and writing. His mission in life is to promote health and education, that is why he has chosen to be a family physician and found his own nonprofit Project RAK based on education and empowerment.
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