Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure, it is a very common and serious condition affecting more than 1.5 million people per year in Nigeria. It is the most common non-communicable disease in Nigeria. Young adults, an increasing number of teenagers and even children are among the growing number of Nigerians developing high blood pressure.
Hypertension, in simple terms is a condition in which the force of the blood against the walls of the blood vessels (arteries) is too high. Blood pressure above 140/90 is considered high and if above 180/120 is considered severe.
High blood pressure often has no symptoms. Over time, if untreated, it can cause health conditions, such as heart disease and stroke.
Here are some tactics to help manage hypertension:
- Reduce your sodium intake
There is a lot of sodium in processed and prepared foods. If you already have high blood pressure, it’s worth cutting back on salt and stock cubes. Swap out processed foods, fish and meat with fresh ones and season your meals with herbs and other spices, not salt.
- Walk and exercise regularly
Regular exercise helps make your heart stronger and more efficient at pumping blood, which lowers the pressure in your arteries. Walking just 40 minutes a day can help lower your blood pressure. More exercise helps reduce it even further.
- Eat more potassium-rich foods
Potassium helps your body get rid of sodium and ease pressure on your blood vessels. Foods that are particularly high in potassium include:
- Leafy greens, beans, tomatoes, potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Fruit, including melons, bananas, avocados and oranges
- Dairy and fish, such as milk and yogurt
- Nuts and seeds
- Drink less alcohol
Drinking alcohol is linked to 16% of high blood pressure cases. While some research suggests that low-to-moderate amounts of alcohol may be beneficial, those benefits may be offset by negative effects. Drinking alcohol in any quantity does raise your blood pressure so try to have no more than one drink a day for women, two for men.
- Learn to manage stress
When you’re chronically stressed, your body is in a constant fight-or-flight mode. On a physical level, that means a faster heart rate and constricted blood vessels. When stressed, you’re more likely to engage in other risky behaviours, such as drinking alcohol or eating unhealthy food.
Here are two evidence-based tips to reduce stress:
- Listen to soothing music: Calming music can help relax your nervous system as an effective complement to other blood pressure therapies.
- Work life balance: Stressful work situations in general, are linked to high blood pressure. So try to find a balance between work and rest.
- Lose weight
If you’re overweight, losing weight can make a big difference for your heart health. According to a 2016 study, losing 5% of your body mass could significantly lower high blood pressure. When you pair your weight loss efforts with exercise, the positive effect on the blood pressure is greater.
- Cut added sugar and refined carbs
There’s a growing body of research showing a link between added sugar and high blood pressure. In one study, women who drank even one soda per day had higher levels than those who drank less than one soda per day. Refined carbs such as the kind found in white flour, convert rapidly to sugar in your bloodstream and may cause blood pressure problems.
- Take natural supplements
Some natural supplements may also help lower blood pressure. Here are some that have evidence behind them:
- Aged garlic extract: Aged garlic extract has been used successfully as a stand-alone treatment and along with conventional therapies for lowering blood pressure.
- Fish oil: Long credited with improving heart health, fish oil may benefit people with high blood pressure the most.
- Hibiscus: Hibiscus flowers make a tasty tea. They’re rich in anthocyanins and polyphenols that are good for your heart and may lower blood pressure.
- Quit smoking
Among the many reasons to quit smoking is that the habit is a strong risk factor for heart disease. Every puff of cigarette smoke causes a slight, temporary increase in blood pressure. The chemicals in tobacco are also known to damage blood vessels.
Studies have however not found a conclusive link between smoking and high blood pressure. Perhaps this is because smokers develop a tolerance over time.
Please share this article with everyone you know, on social media and elsewhere.