About Lowering Blood Pressure

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Methods to lower blood pressure have become very important in the past few years. High blood pressure, medically known as hypertension, is also known as the silent killer because there hardly any symptoms. About 65 million adults in the United States have hypertension, and another 59 million have pre-hypertension.
In the past, medication was prescribed, but it didn't always work, and the side effects could be unpleasant. Now, medicine might still be one of the answers to lowering blood pressure, but there are many other things you can try instead of medication.

Features

  • High blood pressure is a condition that pumps blood through your body with a force that is too high. The only way to tell if your blood pressure is too high is by having a medical professional check it or by taking a reading on a home blood pressure monitor. The monitor will give you two numbers. The first number is the systolic pressure that tells how much pressure your heart uses to pump blood through your arteries. The second number is the diastolic pressure that tells the amount of pressure that's in your arteries when your heart is resting, or between beats. If your reading is 140/90 or more, you have high blood pressure. If your reading is 120/80 to 139/89, you have pre-hypertension. Either way, you should make efforts to lower your blood pressure before it gets higher and endangers your life. The only way to do this is to change your lifestyle.

Prevention/Solution

  • Though there are causes of high blood pressure that you can't do anything about, such as heredity, race and aging, there are many more that you can do something about. One simple way that works for 60 percent of people is to limit your salt intake. Avoid instant cereal, canned soup, cheese, lunch meat, canned vegetables, frozen dinners and salty snacks. Instead of using processed food, buy fresh or frozen meat, vegetables and fruit. Instead of seasoning with salt, use spices, herbs and salt-free seasoning blends.
    Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Women can have one 12 oz. glass of beer or 5 oz. glass of wine a day. Men can have two. If you're a smoker, you should know that smoking builds fatty deposits in your arteries that block blood and it constricts your arteries. Smoking one cigarette raises your blood pressure for 1/2 hour, and smoking a pack a day will keep your blood pressure high most of the day. Quit smoking and reduce your stress level by meditating or using relaxation techniques.
    Losing weight and adding exercise to your daily routine lowers blood pressure. A 1/2 hour a day of activities like walking, bicycling, gardening, raking leaves, shooting baskets, or fast dancing can make a huge difference. Fifteen minutes a day of stair climbing, swimming, jumping rope, playing basketball, and shoveling snow can make your blood pressure level drop. Getting 3500 mg of potassium every day lowers blood pressure. Potassium helps your body get rid of sodium. You can also benefit by increasing the amount of calcium, magnesium and flaxseed oil in your diet. Hawthorn berry can widen blood vessels, which lowers resistance to blood flow. Parsley leaf improves blood flow through arteries and veins.

Benefits

  • There are many benefits to lowering blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and eye problems. According to hypertension specialist Dr. Samuel J. Mann, author of "Healing Hypertension: A Revolutionary New Approach," one in 11 deaths in people with hypertension can be prevented by lowering blood pressure by 12 points and keeping it there for at least 10 years. Lowering your blood pressure can cut your risk of heart failure in half and your risk of having a heart attack by 25 percent. Your risk of having a stroke can be cut by 40 percent if you lower your blood pressure.

Misconceptions

  • Too many people rely on medication alone to lower their blood pressure because they don't want to change their lifestyle. On the other hand, a lot of people count on other methods to lower their blood pressure when they actually need medicine. Blood pressure can be lowered both ways, but you need to monitor your blood pressure regularly to see what is working.

    Beta-blockers lower blood pressure by making the heart beat slower and with less force. Calcium channel blockers make blood pressure lower by keeping calcium from getting into the muscle cells of the hear and blood vessels. This relaxes the blood vessels. Alpha-blockers let blood pass through blood vessels easier by reducing nerve impulses. Alpha-beta-blockers do the same, but they also slow the heartbeat like beta-blockers. Medication can cause side effects such as dizziness, low potassium, bloating, headaches, constipation, dry mouth, depression, drowsiness, and problems getting an erection.

Expert Insight

  • Recent clinical studies tested the effects of nutrients in food on high blood pressure. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, eating plan lowered blood pressure in people who ate less red meat, gat, and sugar and ate more fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts. People who used the DASH eating plan in a second study and also lowered salt intake to 1500 mg per day or less had even lower blood pressure. Experts recommend that you change slowly to the DASH plan to avoid bloating. Add a vegetable or fruit to lunch and dinner, use half as much butter, use herbs, and eat fruit as dessert and snacks. Gradually add other elements of the program.
    In a March 21, 2008 Science Daily article, Brigham Young University studies showed that happily married adults have lower blood pressure than single people. Lonely people over 50 have blood pressure readings 30 points higher than people over 50 who aren't lonely.

    Virginia Commonwealth University is experimenting with a device that can lower blood pressure by stimulating nerves in the carotid arteries. They hope to use it in the future to eliminate the need for medicine.

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