Friday, May 12, 2017

Managing your Blood Pressure: 5 Easy Ways to Keep it in Check

 As we dive head first into May, the weather is cooling off and many of us may find ourselves focusing on our monotonous day-to-day routines. What many people don’t realize is that May also marks the start of Blood Pressure Month, which pushes for the recognition and education on hypertension and the several adverse effects it can have on one’s health. According to the World Health Organization, about 19 percent of Australians aged 18 and older have high blood pressure. With the recent passing of National Heart Week, we’ve decided to dedicate this blog to helping people manage blood pressure! But, first, what is high blood pressure and how can it be prevented?

Understanding Blood Pressure and Its Effect on Our Health

Before diving into ways to combat high blood pressure, it is first important to have a foundational understanding of what blood pressure is. Blood pressure simply refers to the amount of force that your blood puts on your arteries as it moves through your body. Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart and pumps it to the rest of your body and as the blood moves, it puts pressure on your artery walls.

High blood pressure, which is also commonly referred to as hypertension, occurs when your blood moves through your arteries at a higher pressure than what is considered normal. Think of your blood vessels as stretchy tubes, which (technically) they are. While these vessels are able to stretch quite easily, they do not stretch in all directions. If they did, they would balloon up and cause other health related issues. It is important to realize that not all high blood pressure is bad, in fact, it sometimes can be a healthy and normal bodily function. Take after exercising, for example: during an exercise routine there is often a short term spike in blood pressure and pulse. This temporary spike works with your entire circulatory system by pressurizing your arteries and in return, your body naturally resists this pressure, keeping them strong and healthy.

Blood pressure becomes an issue when it is high for prolonged periods of time. In this instance, the blood vessels are always stretched and under loads of pressure, which can develop tiny tears in the vessels’ arterial lining. The body will naturally try to repair these tears, leading to swelling and an accumulation of platelets, which only further restricts your blood’s ability to flow. If a tear worsens over time, the arterial wall will become so constricted that the blood may end up being blocked entirely. In this event, an aneurysm is likely to occur and could potentially be fatal. If the same happens to the arteries that are responsible for supplying the brain with blood, it is called a stroke. 

You can go years without realizing you have high blood pressure, which makes getting tested all the more important. Testing your blood pressure often can greatly reduce risks of heart attack and stroke and can ultimately lead you to living a happier and healthier life! Lifestyle plays a large role in lowering your high blood pressure.

If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you might avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication or serious medical attention. Listed below are five natural ways that will help you lower your blood pressure and live the healthy life you deserve!

1Reduce Your Stress:

In today’s chaotic world, it is easy to find yourself bogged down by stressors from work, relationships, or personal finances. It has been found that chronic stress is a large contributor to high blood pressure. Occasional stress also can contribute to high blood pressure if you treat your stress by eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol or smoking. In order to reduce your stress, you must first take some time to think about where the root of your stress lays. Once found, consider how you can make conscious efforts to either eliminate or cope with them in a healthy and productive way.

·         Acknowledge the root of your stress: Understanding what brings about your stress is crucial to living a happy and healthy lifestyle. It can also help you make better decisions to directly avoid what causes you anxiety or mental anguish. For example, if driving in traffic causes you stress, consider alternate routes or drive slightly after or before rush hour.
·         Take time to relax and do what you enjoy: Perhaps the most basic way to combat stress is relaxing, but many of us struggle to find the time to meditate and do the activities we enjoy in our busy lives.
·         Exercise regularly: Whether you run 5k or walk down the street, exercising daily is a great way to relieve pent up stress from the day. Exercise releases endorphins, which are hormones that help boost your mood and increase energy levels.
·         Breathe! : It sounds simple, but many of us forget to breathe in stressful situations. Practicing deep breathing techniques physiologically lowers your heart rate and can quickly and naturally calm you down from bouts of anxiety.

2. Cut Back on Caffeine:

Kicking off your morning with a daily cup of coffee is a habit many of us have grown accustom to, but what most people don’t know is that caffeine can easily increase blood pressure in those who aren’t habitual coffee or tea drinkers.  In fact, it’s been found that caffeine can raise blood pressure by as much as 10 mm Hg in people who rarely consume it. Be sure to limit your intake of sodas and energy drinks and try substituting your regular coffee for decaf. These simple diet changes can greatly reduce the likelihood of your blood pressure raising. Non-fat fruit smoothies, pomegranate juice, lemon water, or even natural vegetable juices are healthy alternatives for your morning coffee or tea and contain none of the caffeine that increases your blood pressure and heart rate.

3.  Promote Blood Flow 

There are dozens of stretches and exercises that encourage blood flow and can help maintain a healthy circulatory system. Simple yoga poses like Downward Dog, Yoga lunge, and Warrior II can move blood to areas of the body that may not get the circulation needed on a regular basis.

Use our exercise and yoga balls to quickly and easily stretch out your torso, legs, and arms. Doing so will feel amazing and will provide you with core and balance training while promoting healthy blood flow to all areas of your body!

Acupuncture is an age-old medical practice that has been used for centuries to help assist regular blood flow and relieve tension in all areas of the body. Pain free and extremely relaxing, our acupuncture needles help relieve tension in your muscles as well as break up blood clots in your arteries that typically contribute to high blood pressure and other related conditions.

4. Eat Less Sodium: 

A poor diet is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure, so sticking to a healthy diet plan is extremely important in avoiding circulatory illnesses and conditions. One of the best ways to kickstart a healthier diet is to limit the amount of sodium you eat. Did you know that even a small reduction of sodium in your diet can reduce blood pressure by 2-8 mm Hg? The effect of sodium intake can vary among different groups of people, but in general, limiting the sodium in your diet to less than 2,300 mg a day can have almost instantaneous effects on your health and general well-being. To help lower the amount of sodium in your diet, consider reading food labels carefully, eating fewer processed foods, and resisting the urge to add salt when not necessary. 

5. Quit Smoking: 

The nicotine found in cigarettes has been linked to drastically raising blood pressure and heart rate, narrowing arteries and hardening the arterial lining, and increasing the likelihood of forming blood clots over time. Both smoking and the exposure to secondhand smoke increase the risk for the buildup of plaque inside the arteries, which is widely referred to as atherosclerosis: a condition in which high blood pressure is known to accelerate. Not only does quitting smoking help normalize your blood pressure, but it also substantially increases your life expectancy, regardless of age.

Have other holistic methods of lowering your blood pressure! Let us know! Tell us what works for you in the comments. 


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