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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70 million American adults or about 1 out of 3 have high blood pressure and only about 50% of all these people have their elevations in blood pressure under control.

High blood pressure is an expensive illness in this country. In fact, it costs our nation about $46 billion each year. This includes the cost of receiving healthcare for the disease, purchasing and making medications to treat it and in missed days of work. High blood pressure or “hypertension” is a risk factor for several other diseases, including stroke and heart attacks.

For these reasons, it pays to prevent high blood pressure as much as possible.

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Risk Factors for Hypertension

1. Family History

Unfortunately, family history plays a big role in who gets high blood pressure and who doesn’t. If you have a parent or siblings with high blood pressure, you should be vigilant in having your blood pressure measured at the doctor’s office or at the little blood pressure kiosks they have at many local pharmacies.

If you are seeing signs that the blood pressure is approaching 140/90 or greater, see your doctor about getting on some type of treatment.

2. Eating Lots of Salt

Eating a lot of salt in your diet can contribute to high blood pressure, particularly in persons already disposed to getting the disease. Try limiting the amount of salt you put on your food after it has been prepared and stay away from high salt processed foods.

3. Diabetes

Diabetes is a risk factor for hypertension. About 60% of diabetics also have high blood pressure for reasons that are not completely clear. What is known is that the combination of high blood pressure and diabetes are dangerous and can more easily lead to heart disease and stroke, more so than if a person just has one condition or the other.

4. Prehypertension

Prehypertension is a risk factor for hypertension.

Prehypertension is the state of having a blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89.

People can stay in the prehypertensive stage for many years before they slip into the hypertensive range. If you find yourself with a diagnosis of prehypertension, this is the time to watch the salt and caffeine intake in your diet so as to keep the blood pressure lower than 140/90 on a consistent basis.

5. Caffeine

Caffeine, found in coffee, some teas and in the numerous energy drinks on the market today, can contribute to temporary elevations of blood pressure. Caffeine is not good for those who have prehypertension or who have hypertension already.

6. Age

Age is a risk factor for hypertension, especially for what is known as systolic hypertension.

As a person ages, the arteries of the heart become less elastic and the heart must pump harder to push the blood around the body.

The systolic or “upper” number of a blood pressure reading represents the force required to push the blood through the body by the heart and it is often the number most elevated in older people.

The diastolic blood pressure number or “lower” number of the blood pressure reading is the pressure in the arteries of the body when the heart is not actively pumping. This number is normal in systolic hypertension.

Effective Ways To Control High Blood Pressure

While you can’t change your family history or age, there are things you can do to lessen the risk of hypertension.

You can limit the amount of salt you take in on a daily basis. This means no added salt to already cooked food and cooking with about half the salt recommended in a recipe. Many canned vegetables and canned soups contain a great deal of salt in them and they should be avoided.

Keep your weight in the normal range and try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, 5 times per week.

Exercise raises the blood pressure while you are exercising but helps make fit the heart and blood vessels so that, overall, your blood pressure will be lower.

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