What exactly is Hypertension?
Why is there an entire day dedicated to it? And why should you pay attention to it? Well, it's a very common and life-threatening illness that you can easily develop and mostly affects the black community. - So common that you may even have it without realizing! Find out all about this condition and how to prevent and control it.
If you look at a blood pressure reading, you'll see a top number and a bottom number. The top number is called Systolic Pressure – It measures how much pressure there is after your heart pumps blood to the arteries. The bottom number is called Diastolic Pressure – It measures the pressure in your arteries in between beats. Both Systolic and Diastolic pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
Healthy blood pressure should be between 90/60mmHG and 120/80mmHg. Blood pressure is considered high if the number is higher than 140/90mmHg. If your blood pressure is between 120/80mmHg and 14/90mmHg, you are at risk of developing high blood pressure. So it's crucial to control the levels and try to get it back to a healthy measurement.
High blood pressure damages your artery walls and makes them prone to build up fatty deposits known as cholesterol. High cholesterol in your arteries restricts your blood and oxygen from circulating properly. Improper circulation puts a strain on organs in the body, including your brain, heart, and kidneys.
How Common Is Hypertension
Hypertension is a lot more common than you may realize. In fact, 1 in 3 people is diagnosed with Hypertension. Frighteningly, 18% of men and 13% of women have high blood pressure and are unaware of it. This means they are not receiving treatment, which welcomes the onset of stroke, heart attack, heart disease, kidney disease, and many other severe health conditions.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, killing 655,000 people per year; that's 1 out of 4 deaths. These statistics alone indicate just how common Hypertension is, but unfortunately, only 1 in 4 adults have their blood pressure under control.
It is essential to know that people of African and Caribbean origin are at higher risk of developing Hypertension. 0ver 40% of African Americans have high blood pressure compared to 29% of the general population. This is because some of us carry a gene that has a sensitivity to salt – a main factor in the development of Hypertension.
As little as half a teaspoon of salt can significantly raise your blood pressure. Regularly indulging in the typical African American diet consisting of soul food and the likes isn't conducive to maintaining healthy blood pressure.
How is Hypertension Developed – Main Causes
Many of the causes mentioned above are typical practices that are often effortlessly done over a weekend. For example, a typical night out usually involves copious amounts of alcohol, smoking, salty fast food after the event, and passing out rather than going to sleep. It’s great to have fun, just be careful and conscious of the amounts you’re consuming.
How To Prevent Hypertension
There are various ways to control your blood pressure and maintain it within a healthy range. Please note that it is a lifestyle, so it's necessary to remain consistent. Inconstancy can cause blood pressure levels to fluctuate.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
Keep a healthy weight for your height and gender.
Being overweight increases blood pressure and can cause sleep apnea which perpetuates high blood pressure. On a weight loss journey, it's possible to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. 1mmHg can reduce blood pressure for every 2.2lbs (1 kilogram) lost.
Exercising regularly can reduce your blood pressure if you already have Hypertension. Walking for just 30 minutes a day can lower blood pressure by 5 to 8 mmHg. Keeping fit doesn't have to be a daunting chore. There are plenty of physical activities to choose from, such as dancing, rock climbing, swimming, jogging, HIIT, and strength training. Be sure to select activities that appeal to you so that remain consistent with it.
- Watch What You Eat
A diet that consists of plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will reduce high blood pressure by up to 11mmHg and maintain an already healthy range.
Remember to pay attention to the nutrition information on food labels when grocery shopping!
Bonus Tip: Write a food journal for 30 days, record what you've eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Also, make a note of how much of the food you've eaten and why. This relates to our post on The Junk Food Cycle VS The Emotional Cycle. Sometimes we eat unhealthy salty foods, and it isn't because we're actually hungry.
Reviewing your food journal may reveal certain eating habits you were unaware of and will allow you to make adjustments where necessary. If you feel like snacking, rather than consuming salty fries, opt for a body nourishing soursop and sea moss smoothie. For something more convenient when you're on the go, grab a potassium-filled banana.
- Stop Smoking
It is highly advised to quit smoking cigarettes because it raises blood pressure and increases the chance of heart attack and stroke.
- Limit your alcohol intake.
Drinking alcohol isn't inherently harmful to you. It's okay to enjoy a celebratory glass of champagne or a shot of whiskey on the rocks. However, binge drinking regularly will lead to Hypertension and other diseases.
- Get Enough Sleep
There is a difference between sleep quality and sleep quantity. Quality is what the aim is when maintaining healthy blood pressure, so try and get in tune with your circadian rhythm to keep the pressure levels healthy.
- Manage Stress
Being in nature, meditating, and staying away from toxic people should be vital in everyone's routine. They may seem mundane or insignificant, but they are actually powerful methods to reduce stress levels and blood pressure.
Don't forget to get your blood pressure routinely checked by a doctor, but always remember that you are in control of your own health.