What to do after being diagnosed with high blood pressure
Hypertension, a condition marked by abnormally high blood pressure, is more common than many people may recognize. A 2021 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicated that nearly half of adults in the United States, or roughly 116 million people, have hypertension. And hypertension isn’t exclusive to Americans, as the World Health Organization notes that the number of people living with the condition has doubled to 1.28 billion since 1990.
Despite its prevalence, hypertension is not normal, nor is it something to take lightly. In fact, the American Heart Association notes that, if left undetected or uncontrolled, hypertension can lead to an assortment of serious, and potentially deadly, conditions, including heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease.
Since the threat posed by high blood pressure is so significant, it’s imperative that individuals know what to do upon being diagnosed with hypertension. The AHA notes that individuals diagnosed with hypertension can try various strategies to get their number down to a normal, healthy range.
• Eat a healthy, low-salt diet. A diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, and non-tropical vegetable oils ensures people are getting ample nutrition from healthy sources. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan is designed specifically to help people manage their blood pressure and emphasizes limiting salt, red meat and foods with added sugars, including sweets and sugary beverages. It’s important that all people, and especially those with high blood pressure, limit their salt intake, as sodium is known to increase blood pressure.
• Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. The AHA notes that excessive alcohol consumption can raise blood pressure. In addition, despite what popular misconceptions may suggest, there is no evidence to suggest that red wine consumption is good for heart health. Like other alcoholic beverages, red wine should be consumed in moderation, if at all. The AHA urges individuals to limit their alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and no one more than one drink per day for women.
• Exercise regularly. Routine exercise benefits the heart in myriad ways, including helping people control high blood pressure. Individuals recently diagnosed with high blood pressure who are unaccustomed to physical activity should work with their physicians and a personal trainer to design an exercise regimen that’s within their abilities. As their bodies get used to increased physical activity, people can then work with the same individuals to tweak their routines so they can keep making progress toward their fitness goals. Routine exercise also helps to reduce stress, which the AHA notes is another step people with hypertension should take to lower their blood pressure.
• Shed extra weight. Each of the aforementioned strategies can help people shed extra weight, which is another step the AHA recommends for people with high blood pressure. The AHA notes that losing as few as 10 pounds can help to manage high blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy weight also reduces strain on the heart, thus lowering the risk for high blood pressure and the conditions that can arise from it.
More than 1.2 billion people across the globe are currently living with high blood pressure. Taking steps to reduce hypertension is a great way to promote long-term health and overcome this often silent killer.
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