Arterial hypertension is characterized by an increase in blood pressure that exceeds the critical threshold of 140/90 mm HG. This data is measured using a blood pressure monitor which evaluates the quantity of blood pumped by the heart as well as the resistance to its flow in the arteries. It’s possible to have high blood pressure for years without experiencing any symptoms. Although sometimes asymptomatic, the adverse health effects of hypertension are very real. In fact, hypertension affects blood circulation and could lead to serious health problems by increasing the risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, there are several preventive measures you can take to reduce the risks. Here are 5 smart tips to prevent high blood pressure.
Limit your sodium consumption
L’Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec (OPDQ) places excessive sodium consumption as one of the main causes of hypertension. In order to limit the consequences on health, it’s important to find effective strategies to reduce sodium consumption on a daily basis. In fact, according to a review of the literature, a reduction in sodium consumption below the threshold of 2000 mg per day can reduce systolic pressure by 6 mm HG. Some people mistakenly believe that they only consume very low amounts of sodium since they don’t make salty meals, but the majority of sodium comes from processed foods where it is used as a preservative and a flavour enhancer. To find out if a food is high or low in sodium, just look at the Nutrition Facts table. If the percentage of the daily value of sodium is less than 5%, the content is low, whereas if this figure is greater than 15%, the food is high in sodium. In order to better control the amounts of sodium in your diet, it’s best to cook at home as often as possible while limiting the consumption of prepared, ready-to-eat or restaurant meals.
Eat a balanced diet
In order to lower blood pressure, it’s advisable to have a balanced diet in addition to limiting your sodium consumption. The DASH approach (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) is strongly suggested and is not limited only to people with hypertension. This diet promotes the consumption of foods rich in protein, fibre, potassium, calcium and magnesium, such as nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Conversely, it’s advisable to limit saturated fats and sugars. The DASH diet’s beneficial effects are accentuated when it is accompanied by a decrease in sodium. A meta-analysis reports that the DASH diet helps lower blood pressure in people at risk for cardiovascular disease in just 2 weeks. Another study published in 2003 suggested that if people with hypertension adhered to the DASH diet, nearly 400,000 cardiovascular events could be prevented in 10 years.
Reduce alcohol consumption
Consuming more than 2 drinks of alcohol per day will increase blood pressure. Women should limit themselves to no more than 9 drinks/week and men should be careful not to exceed 14 drinks/week. One drink corresponds to 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces (340 ml) of 5% beer or 1 ½ ounce (45 ml) of spirits. Fortunately, according to current scientific data, moderate alcohol consumption is not associated with cardiovascular problems, such as hypertension. So there’s nothing wrong with having a good glass of wine on occasion after getting home from work.
Physical activity and weight loss
Obesity often goes hand-in-hand with high blood pressure. In fact, adipose tissue releases many substances that act directly on the pathophysiological mechanisms of arterial pressure. Consequently, even a small reduction in weight can be extremely beneficial and lower blood pressure considerably.
Although the body mass index (BMI) is frequently used to classify the population according to their weight, waist circumference is a more effective way of predicting the risk of hypertension. In fact, a waist circumference greater than 88 cm for women or 102 cm for men is associated with an increase in visceral fat mass surrounding certain vital organs. This type of fat is associated with various health problems than subcutaneous fat, which is what is visible.
To lose weight in a healthy way, it’s recommended to invest time being active, in addition to maintaining a balanced diet. According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, adults 18 to 64 years of age should engage in a minimum of 150 minutes/week of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity. This equates to approximately 30 minutes/day, 5 days a week. Brisk walking, cycling, spinning, jogging or even dancing are just a few examples of activities that can be easily added to your agenda.
In recent years, the effect of psychological factors on cardiovascular health has been increasingly studied. Stress has been associated with an increased prevalence of hypertension disorders. In order to reduce the increase in blood pressure, it’s beneficial to manage the psychological factors. Restful sleep as well as good stress and anxiety management are essential factors in limiting hypertension. Otherwise, keeping an organized schedule, practicing yoga, and meditating can be great complementary strategies.
In short, if you suffer from hypertension, various strategies are available to you to help you better manage and live more enjoyably with this health condition. Weight loss is emerging as one of the pillars, but other means could prove to be just as effective.
Familiprix in collaboration with Hubert Cormier
Blais C. Hypertension artérielle primaire, Manuel de nutrition clinique en ligne. Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec, Montréal, Révision 2018.
I. Health Behaviour Management | Hypertension Canada Guidelines, s. d. https://hypertension.ca
Siervo, M., Lara, J., Chowdhury, S., Ashor, A., Oggioni, C., & Mathers, J. C. (2015). Effects of the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet on cardiovascular risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition, 113(1), 1-15.
Spruill, T. M. (2010). Chronic psychosocial stress and hypertension. Current hypertension reports, 12(1), 10-16.
Steinberg, D., Bennett, G. G., & Svetkey, L. (2017). The DASH diet, 20 years later. Jama, 317(15), 1529-1530.