18th July, 2012
High blood pressure or hypertension has always been called ‘the silent killer’ because it develops with little or no symptoms at all.
The recent available statistics about hypertension both in Nigeria and other parts of the world is alarming and the future appears bleak.
Studies carried out years back showed that 10 per cent of Nigerians have the disease (more than 10 million people) out of which only 10 per cent are aware of their hypertensive status. The research also shows that only 10 per cent of Nigerians that know they are hypertensive are on treatment, majority of whom do not comply with their medication and follow up.
A high prevalence of 13 per cent have been reported in the country. This means not less than 13 million Nigerians have the disease.
When hypertension is advanced it can cause headaches, rapid pulse, shortness of breath, dizziness and vision problems. More women than men die of the complications of high blood pressure, which include kidney failure, heart failure, and stroke. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that high blood pressure is preventable and can also be controlled for those who already are battling with it.
You don’t always need prescription of medication to lower your blood pressure. By making some lifestyle changes, you can lower or prevent high blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (a systolic pressure -the top number- of 140 or above or a diastolic pressure -the bottom number- of 90 or above), you might be worried about taking medication to bring the numbers down.
Lifestyle plays an important role in treating your high blood pressure if you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you may avoid, delay, or reduce the need for medication.
Here are some lifestyle changes you can make to prevent/control high blood pressure:
1. Exercise regularly
Regular physical activity -at least 30-60 minutes most days of the week- can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
And it doesn’t take long to see a difference. If you haven’t been active, increasing you exercise level can lower your blood pressure within just a few weeks.
If you have prehypertension (systolic pressure between 120 and 139 or diastolic pressure between 80 and 89), exercise can help you avoid developing full blown hypertension. So if you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels.
Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise programme before embarking on it. Your doctor can help you determine whether you need an exercise restrictions. Even moderate activity for 10 min at a time such as walking and light strength training can help.
2. Eat a healthy diet
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products and going easy on saturated fat and cholesterol laden foods can lower your blood pressure by up to 14mmHg.
It isn’t easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips you can adopt a healthy diet
•Monitor what you eat, how much and why.
•Take more of fresh fruits and vegetables, they are the best sources of potassium. Potassium can lessen the effect of sodium (common salt) on blood pressure.
•Shop wisely. Make a shopping list before heading to the market to avoid picking junk food. Read food labels when you shop and stick to your healthy eating plan when you are dining out too.
•A salt-free diet is healthy in lowering pressure. Choose low-salt alternatives of the food and beverages you normally buy.
•Eat fewer processed foods
•Don’t add salt to already prepared foods .
3. As much as you can, avoid drinking alcohol.
Alcohol can be bad for your health. If you drink more of alcohol it can actually raise your blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of high blood pressure medication.
If you are a heavy drinker, suddenly eliminating all alcohol can actually trigger severe high blood pressure for several days. So when you stop drinking do it with the supervision of your doctor to taper off slowly.
On top of all the other dangers of smoking, the nicotine in tobacco products can raise your blood pressure by 10 mmHg or more for up to an hour after you smoke. Smoking throughout the day means your blood pressure may remain constantly high.
Avoid second hand smoke. Inhaling smoke from others also put you at risk of health problems including high blood pressure and heart disease .
5.Reduce your stress level
Stress and anxiety can temporarily increase blood pressure. Take some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as work, family, finance or illness. Once you know what is causing your stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress.
If you can’t eliminate all of your stressors you can at least cope with them in a healthier way. Take a break for deep breathing exercises. Get a massage. If these do not work, seek out a professional for counselling .
6. Monitor your blood pressure from time to time.
Get a blood pressure monitor for your home and office use.