Prioritizing physical activity and watching your food intake can do wonders for your blood pressure and overall health
Art by Saii Shah
One of the scariest things about hypertension or high blood pressure is that it has no symptoms. A major cause of heart disease, high blood pressure depends on how much blood your heart is pumping and how resistant your arteries are to blood flow.
There isn’t a clear explanation for what really causes these increases but what we do know is that lifestyle is a crucial factor. That means you can help prevent the condition by prioritizing your health and making certain changes to your lifestyle. Here are five simple ways to do just that:
Physical exercise strengthens your heart and helps it pump more blood with less effort, decreasing pressure on your arteries. A simple 30-minute exercise like jogging on the treadmill or engaging in aerobic dance at least five times a week are some exercises you can do. You can also practice mindfulness and meditation to reduce stress.
Limit sugar and refined carbohydrates
Several scientific studies have shown that excessive sugar and carbohydrate intake may cause high blood pressure. Aside from following a low-carb and low-fat diet, focus on consuming more protein and healthy fat (avocados, eggs, dark chocolate) instead of sugar and processed carbohydrates. You can start by eating a well-balanced breakfast as well as adding more protein (56 grams for men and 46 grams per day for women) and vegetables in your daily meals.
Stop smoking and drink less alcohol
Smoking causes an immediate increase in blood pressure as the chemicals in tobacco damage the blood vessels. If you don’t smoke, be wary of secondhand smoke. Heavy drinking is also linked to hypertension and serious long-term effects so limit yourself to only one glass of alcoholic beverage a day.
Eat high-protein food
As mentioned, protein is an essential nutrient found in meat, seafood, grains, beans, and dairy products that can help decrease high blood pressure. A long-term study found that those who ate an average of 100 grams of protein per day experienced a 40 percent decrease in blood sugar levels while those who consumed fiber from high-protein foods experienced a 60 percent reduction in blood sugar.
High-protein foods you should eat often include fish (salmon or canned tuna in water), eggs, beef, chicken breast, beans, nuts, chickpeas, and cheese—specifically parmesan since it contains 35.1 grams of protein. If you’re vegetarian, opt for beans (containing seven to 10 grams of protein) and peanut butter.
Don’t stress yourself out too much
When you’re stressed, hormones cause your heart to beat faster (and narrow your blood vessels), which then affects your blood pressure. This is why reducing stress is key. Listening to music, walking your dog, or sitting in silence for two minutes have all been proven to reduce systolic blood pressure and stress levels.