Finding out you have high blood pressure can be scary. With high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, you often don’t experience any physical symptoms right away. In some instances, it can slowly develop and be years before you see the physical effects. Although you don’t notice the effects of high blood pressure right away, it eventually can cause severe problems with your cardiovascular system and cause many issues like heart disease and stroke, which are among the leading causes of death in America.
Doctors can detect hypertension with a blood pressure reading. The earlier the problem is detected, the less likely you are to see severe health problems later on because you can prevent the condition from getting worse.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
The causes of high blood pressure depend on which type you have. The two main types of high blood pressure include primary or essential hypertension and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension has no identifiable cause, and it usually develops over many years. Secondary hypertension can emerge suddenly, and it’s brought on by underlying conditions like thyroid problems, kidney disease and sleep apnea. Various medications and drugs can also cause secondary hypertension, including birth control pills, decongestants and prescription drugs, alongside illegal drugs like amphetamines and cocaine.
Even though science cannot find any identifiable causes for primary hypertension, it is linked to certain risk factors. Some of the risk factors for hypertension include genetics, obesity, lack of physical activity, too much salt or fatty foods in your diet, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, stress and diabetes.
Certain people are also more prone to get primary hypertension than others. Pregnant women, people who have high blood pressure in their family, people over the age of 35 and men are more likely to have high blood pressure. Most of the causes of high blood pressure are due to certain lifestyle choices. Making changes in your lifestyle can help you lower your blood pressure.
Tips to Lower Your Blood Pressure
If you’re concerned about your hypertension, you can make some lifestyle changes to reduce your blood pressure and lower your risk of complications. Here’s how to lower your blood pressure using some of these strategies.
- Quit smoking: Smoking inflicts significant damage on your lungs, greatly increases your blood pressure and causes other serious cardiovascular problems. The nicotine in tobacco products can narrow your arteries, damage your blood vessels and make your heart beat faster. Kicking your tobacco habit is an excellent way to help you lower your blood pressure.
- Cut back on your alcohol consumption: Alcohol can be detrimental to your cardiovascular health and blood pressure if you drink excessively. Drinking in moderation could look like one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. One drink contains 10 grams of alcohol and is equal to one 12-ounce beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor. Alcohol can raise your blood pressure by 1 mm Hg for every 10 grams of alcohol that you consume. Luckily, within two to four weeks of abstaining or substantially reducing your alcohol intake, you can reverse this increase in blood pressure.
- Exercise daily: Regular exercise can help prevent high blood pressure and reduce hypertension if you already have it. Even just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity for most of the week can help. Cardiovascular exercises like running, jogging, walking, swimming, dancing and cycling are the best activities for lowering blood pressure. Strength training like lifting weights a few days a week may also produce similar results for your cardiovascular health.
- Lose weight: Along with exercising daily, losing weight if you’re overweight can help reduce blood pressure. Extra weight on your body means your blood vessels are working harder to deliver blood throughout your body. Even losing a small amount of weight, such as 5-10 pounds, can help you tremendously lower blood pressure.
- Eat a healthier diet: Making better dietary choices can help you lower your blood pressure and improve your overall cardiovascular health. Processed foods are known for adding to high blood pressure. They have high amounts of salt, sugar and refined carbs, which all increase blood pressure. Stick to a diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, proteins and low-fat dairy products to lower your blood pressure.
- Find heart-healthy foods: Some foods contain specific nutrients that improve blood pressure and overall heart health. For example, potassium helps regulate sodium and relieves blood pressure. So, look for potassium-rich foods like bananas, yogurt, salmon and beans. Magnesium and calcium are also associated with healthy blood pressure. You can even add a small amount of dark chocolate to your diet to introduce flavonoids which have been shown to lower blood pressure.
- Cut back on caffeine: Caffeine has been known to temporarily increase blood pressure. How much it raises your blood pressure and for how long varies from person to person. About 10% of the population is hyposensitive to caffeine, which means they don’t feel its effects as much. Meanwhile, people who are hypersensitive to caffeine are more affected by it and can experience cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure. Cutting back on caffeine if you’re sensitive to it can lower your blood pressure.
- Reduce stress: In today’s world, stress is an unavoidable part of daily life. It can also lead to high blood pressure because it causes your heart rate to elevate. You can use several techniques and activities to reduce stress. Some of these include relaxing and spending time with loved ones, doing enjoyable hobbies, meditating and doing yoga. Make time in your day to take a deep breath and relax to lower your blood pressure.
- Get restful sleep: Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night. When you sleep, your blood pressure decreases, so sleep deprivation can cause you to have higher blood pressure for longer periods. More than 1 in 3 American adults say they don’t get the recommended amount of sleep. If you’re in this category, try getting the right amount of sleep each night to lower your blood pressure.
When to Visit a Cardiologist
You can take steps to lower blood pressure on your own with lifestyle changes. However, there comes a point when it’s necessary to visit a cardiologist. If your blood pressure is chronically elevated and you’re taking steps on your own to lower it to no avail, then it’s time to see a cardiologist.
At Modern Heart and Vascular, we can diagnose high blood pressure and prescribe medication for the condition when lifestyle changes aren’t good enough. We have the team and tools to help you monitor your blood pressure and prevent the condition from getting worse. We also understand that high blood pressure can be linked to other cardiovascular diseases. If you’re seeking a cardiologist to help you lower your blood pressure and keep it under control, schedule an appointment today at one of our three locations in Humble, Katy and Cleveland, Texas. If you’d like to learn more about our practice, read our providers’ bios.
This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you need cardiovascular care, please call us at 832-644-8930.
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