Worried about your high blood pressure? Homage has curated a guide on practical steps you can take to reduce your blood pressure. Read on to find out more.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, may be more common than you think. Generally, the risk of getting high blood pressure increases as you age. In Malaysia, 3 in 10 Malaysians have high blood pressure.
As caregivers, it is important that we remain vigilant and keep a lookout for high blood pressure in our loved ones and ourselves. Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to serious medical consequences.
What is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure refers to when your blood pressure — the force with which your blood pushes against the walls of your blood vessels — is too high over a long period of time and is at risk of causing health problems.
Blood pressure (BP) is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance your blood faces as it is pumped through your blood vessels. The higher the amount of blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure will be.
Blood pressure is usually described by two numbers, systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart is pumping blood, while diastolic pressure measures the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats.
For a healthy person, blood pressure typically falls below the range of BP 120/80 mmHg (millimetres of mercury, a unit of measurement for pressure). That is, your systolic blood pressure should not be above 120 mmHg, while your diastolic blood pressure should not be above 80 mmHg.
A blood pressure measurement of 140/90 mmHg and higher, is a certain sign of high blood pressure.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
People with high blood pressure may experience:
- Shortness of Breath
For the most part, however, high blood pressure does not give rise to any symptoms, even when severe. Even the symptoms described above are not specific to high blood pressure and are present with other medical conditions as well. This makes it hard to detect high blood pressure without going through a medical screening.
If you’re worried about having high blood pressure, you should arrange for a doctor’s consultation as soon as possible to put your mind at ease. Our Homage care advisors and care specialists are also available to help you with your concerns 24/7— simply download the Homage app or call us at 6100 0055 to find out more.
Risks of High Blood Pressure
Imagine a water pipe being forced to accommodate more water supply flowing through it than it was built for. Sounds unsafe, doesn’t it? But that’s exactly what’s happening with your blood vessels when you have high blood pressure.
Of course, having high blood pressure carries certain risks you should know about.
Left untreated, high blood pressure could lead to the following complications:
- Coronary Heart Disease
- Heart Failure
- Peripheral Artery Disease, or narrowing of the blood vessels in your limbs
- Kidney Failure
Your risks of experiencing the above complications increases if you:
- Are a smoker
- Suffer from diabetes
- Have high blood cholesterol
- Are overweight – BMI of 23kg/m2 or higher
Thankfully, there are ways you can adjust your lifestyle and proactively take steps to reduce your risk of high blood pressure or to manage your condition if you already have it. Here at Homage, we have curated some easy-to-follow guidelines and tips for you to start managing your high blood pressure.
Diet and Exercise
Here are some steps you can take to lower your blood pressure through diet and exercise:
1. Reduce your fat consumption
Avoid eating fatty foods and replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats in your diet as much as possible.
2. Reduce your cholesterol consumption
Common sources of cholesterol include innards and offal (e.g. liver, brains, kidney, intestines and heart), egg yolk, squid, fish roe, shellfish, prawns, crabs and animal fats.
3. Reduce your alcohol consumption
Do not consume more than 2 standard drinks daily. Some examples of what constitute 1 standard drink are:
- 2/3 small can of beer (220 ml)
- 1 glass of wine (100ml)
- 1 nip of spirit (30ml)
4. Reduce your sodium consumption
Eating too much salt can cause fluid retention in some people, leading to a sharp rise in your blood pressure. Limit your salt consumption to between 1500mg and 2300mg, or a little over half a teaspoon of table salt each day. The easiest way to do this is to simply avoid adding salt to your food. Consider using herbs and spices for flavouring instead. You should pay attention to food labels and choose low-sodium alternatives to processed food when possible as they tend to contain a lot of sodium.
5. Reduce your sugar and refined carbohydrate consumption
Reducing your sugar and refined carbohydrate intake helps you to lose weight and lower your blood pressure. A low-carb, low-sugar diet also helps you to feel fuller for longer as you consume more protein and fat instead.
6. Eat more fibre
Fibre is found in oats, oat bran, barley, fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, and is known to be beneficial for lowering blood pressure. Include it regularly in your diet to help you manage your blood pressure.
7. Eat more potassium
Potassium reduces the effect of salt on your cardiovascular system and alleviates tension in your blood vessels. Potassium-rich diets may, however, be harmful for people with kidney disease. You should consult a doctor before increasing your potassium consumption.
8. Eat dark chocolate or cocoa
Eating small amounts of dark chocolate can help you reduce your blood pressure. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are full of flavonoids or plant compounds that can cause blood vessels to dilate. For the most impact, use non-alkalised cocoa powder which is especially rich in flavonoids and has no added sugar.
9. Eat berries
Berries are rich in polyphenols, natural plant compounds that promote heart health. Polyphenols can help to reduce the risk of stroke, heart conditions, and improves blood pressure. Eating berries regularly may help to reduce your blood pressure and keep you healthy.
10. Eat magnesium-rich foods
Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps blood vessels dilate. Although magnesium deficiency is rare, many of us still do not get enough of it. Eating magnesium is a recommended way of preventing high blood pressure. Magnesium is easily incorporated into your diet as well, by simply eating vegetables, legumes, chicken, meat, dairy products, and whole grains.
11. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise strengthens your heart over time. This allows your heart to pump blood more efficiently and reduces the pressure on your arteries, lowering your blood pressure. Here are some ideas on exercises that are safe for even the elderly to do.
12. Lose weight if you need to
Losing weight even by around 2kg to 5kg can help directly reduce your blood pressure. It can also help reduce your risk for other medical conditions. To be in the healthy weight range, you should aim for a Body Mass Index (BMI) of between 18.5–24.9.
Apart from relooking your diet and exercise, you may also wish to consider making these adjustments to your lifestyle to reduce your blood pressure:
13. Don’t smoke
Heavy smoking can increase your blood pressure for extended periods of time. As mentioned earlier, smoking also increases your risk of facing high blood pressure complications such as heart attacks and strokes. Avoid smoking as much as possible — even secondhand smoke can increase your risk of having high blood pressure and heart diseases.
It may sound like a no-brainer, but stress is, of course, one of the most common direct causes of high blood pressure. Prolonged stress can cause your blood pressure to remain high over a long period of time. You should try to identify sources of stress in your life and work towards addressing them. Some healthy ways of relieving stress include meditation and yoga.
15. Sleep well
Your blood pressure usually experiences a fall when you are asleep. Sleep deprivation can be a contributing risk factor to high blood pressure, especially for middle-aged folks. You should always try and adhere to a regular sleep schedule and cultivate healthy sleeping habits such as relaxing at night and avoiding napping too much during the daytime.
16. Meditation or deep breathing
While meditation and deep breathing are obvious stress reduction techniques, they are worth spotlighting for being direct actions you can take to immediately reduce your blood pressure. Both of these actions can activate the parasympathetic nervous system that helps regulate your body’s relaxation.
17. Take supplements
There are some supplements that have been found to help lower blood pressure. Consider taking aged garlic extract, Berberine, whey protein, fish oil, or hibiscus, all of which are supplements with scientific backing for their ability to reduce blood pressure.
18. Take prescription medication
If your blood pressure remains high even after making changes to your lifestyle, you may want to consider taking prescription medication to help manage your blood pressure. Consult a doctor to get recommendations for the types and combination of prescription drugs that are suitable for your specific medical condition. It may take a while to find the right combination, but it will help to avoid complications and improve your long term outcome.
19. Monitor your blood pressure and consult your doctor regularly
Monitoring your blood pressure regularly at home helps you to track your blood pressure and helps you to be more conscientious about your lifestyle. Tracking your blood pressure will also allow you to ascertain if the lifestyle changes you’re making are having an impact on your blood pressure and helps alert you to any potential complications. Regular, timely consultations with your doctor are also important in helping you maintain healthy blood pressure. They will be able to advise you on how often you should be checking your blood pressure, according to your specific medical situation, especially if you have changed treatment plans or medications.
20. Get support
Last, but not least, you should remember that you don’t have to manage your blood pressure alone. Having supportive friends and family members can help to improve your health condition. They may provide emotional support like encouraging you to stick to your diet, keeping you company on doctor’s visits, or even take on an exercise program together with you. Beyond friends and family, you could also consider joining support groups for people managing high blood pressure and find solidarity and support from others who can empathise with you.
Managing high blood pressure is not an easy task for anyone and it is only natural to feel overwhelmed and frustrated when you make adjustments to your lifestyle but barely see results. You should keep in mind, however, that lifestyle changes can sometimes take a period of time before any significant changes are observable. Be patient, consistent and persevere in taking charge of your health. Most importantly, always remember to be kind to yourself.
- Hecht, Majorie, 17 Effective Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure [Webpage]. Retrieved 10 April, from https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/lower-it-fast
- Institue of Public Health. (2020). National Health & Morbidity Survey 2019. [online] Available at: http://iku.gov.my/images/IKU/Document/REPORT/NHMS2019/NHMS2019Infographic.pdf.
- Jennings, Keri-Ann, 15 natural ways to lower your blood pressure [Webpage]. Retrieved 10 April, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318716#dark-chocolate
- Jennings, Keri-Ann, 15 natural ways to lower your blood pressure [Webpage]. Retrieved 10 April, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318716#berries
- Jennings, Keri-Ann, 15 natural ways to lower your blood pressure [Webpage]. Retrieved 10 April, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318716#meditation
- Jennings, Keri-Ann, 15 natural ways to lower your blood pressure [Webpage]. Retrieved 10 April, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318716#supplements