High blood pressure
High blood pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease and one of the biggest for a stroke.
Hypertension can also be caused by the onset of heart disease – as plaque builds up on artery walls and the space available for blood to move through thins, the heart has to exert a greater force to move all the blood along.
becoming more prevalent with one in three adults over the age of 20
expected to develop the condition by 2025.
- Eat plenty of potassium-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, whole grains, sunflower and sesame seeds, bananas, apricots, figs, raisins, soy and lima beans, chickpeas, Brazil nuts, walnuts, avocados and blackcurrants.
- Drink at least 1.5 litres of unflavoured, non-carbonated water daily and choose herb teas such as fennel, nettle and dandelion for their beneficial effect on fluid retention; avoid ordinary teas and coffees, which cause you to retain water.
- Consume plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to keep your vitamin C levels up; this vitamin helps safeguard the integrity of capillaries, the smallest of your blood vessels.
- Sweeten with dried fruit instead of refined sugar, as dried fruit provides you with sustained energy, as well as helpful nutrients such as magnesium and vitamin B (see below). Best of all, it won’t clog up your arteries or make you fat.
- Salt – Cut down and then cut it out. Read labels, look at ingredients, don’t have it on the table, and try alternatives such as Herbamare.
- Caffeine – Limit it to special occasions and holidays rather than having it every few hours; caffeine’s effects on the adrenal gland lead to increased blood pressure.
- Alcohol – Although acceptable in moderation, alcohol is bad news if you’re a daily drinker or need it to relax, as it too has an adverse effect on blood pressure.
- Sugar – In the body, refined sugar turns to fat, and you really don’t need fatty deposits clogging up your arteries and making it harder for blood to get through to the heart.
- Saturated fats – They’re not worth the clogged arteries they cause, so oven-bake your French fries and while you’re at it, throw out your deep-fryer!
Exercise – Daily doses of gentle exercise is the best way to go, rather than sweating it out during a monster session once a week, which just puts a strain on your heart.
Rest sufficiently, especially after exercising, and practice breathing exercises or meditation techniques to help you relax properly every day. This will greatly benefit overall heart health and reduce many of the damaging effects stress has on your life.
Smoking – Just don’t do it.
Walking is the best exercise to start with. Begin by walking daily for 10–20 minutes, and increase the length of you walks once you feel ready for more. Start on flat terrain and kill two birds with one stone by walking to the store or post office if they’re within a reasonable distance.
Yoga is gentle and very beneficial, and can be adapted to all fitness levels. If you find you’re doing well, you can try the slightly more demanding Pilates.
Swimming is great for people whose knees don’t tolerate weight-bearing exercises—start out slow and work up your speed gradually.
Magnesium is the best mineral for your heart. It has stress-reducing effects and feeds your heart tissue, helping to keep your heart rhythm steady. Low magnesium levels can contribute to palpitations, high blood pressure, sleeping problems and increased pain perception, so it’s worth keeping it topped up.
Vitamin B is important in reducing stress symptoms and in breaking down an amino acid called homocysteine, which is associated with heart disease and strokes.
Hawthorn (Crataegus) is the herb most associated with a healthy heart. Hawthorn has several actions that are beneficial to the heart.
It dilates the coronary arteries (the arteries that take oxygen and other nutrients to the heart), so that blood can be carried to the heart more effectively.
Hawthorn also has a sedative effect that tones the heart, improving the force of contraction while reducing the rate of contraction. In other words, your heart will beat more strongly so it won’t have to beat as often.
Hawthorn’s flavonoids help stabilize capillaries, the tiny blood vessels that reach into the areas of your body that are furthest from the heart. This is good for your general circulation and your blood pressure.
Procyanidins, one of the flavonoids contained in hawthorn, inhibit an enzyme (angiotensin-converting enzyme) that makes blood vessels constrict and thus push up blood pressure. The inhibiting effect of procyanidins brings your blood pressure down.
If you are already taking blood pressure medication
When it comes to heart conditions, never attempt to self-diagnose or self-medicate. Always consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
You can take certain steps to improve your overall heart health and reduce the likelihood of heart disease; however, when heart disease is diagnosed, these steps do not constitute an alternative to proper medical care.
If you experience swelling of the legs, pain in the chest, arms, upper abdomen or neck area, or if your breathing becomes laboured or distressed, seek medical help immediately.
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