Hypertension (the medical name for high blood pressure) occurs in approximately 1 in 3 people worldwide and only around 10% of cases can be explained by a medical diagnosis. For many people there are no indicators that they have a problem (it is sometimes referred to as ‘the silent killer’ as it has no symptoms.) Left untreated, it can result in severe health problems and shortened life expectancy. Your chances of developing hypertension increase with age, however it can occur at any age particularly if you are overweight, eat excessive quantities of salt or have a generally poor diet. Lack of physical exercise, alcohol and caffeine consumption, smoking and a family history can all contribute. It is worth noting that you do not need to be overweight to have high blood pressure.
What do you do if you find you have high blood pressure? Firstly, visit your GP who can rule out any of the conditions which medical tests can diagnose. Having done that and been given the great news that you are one of the 9 out of 10 people who don’t necessarily require medical treatment, it’s time for you to take control!
Start with your diet. Check for hidden salt, reduce fatty foods, perhaps eat smaller portions and up your vegetable intake. There is lots of help and advice available, so don’t be nervous of trying new ways of eating. Check your alcohol intake and if it exceeds a healthy level, look at ways of reducing it. You could try drinking a pint of water between each alcoholic drink, or only drinking every other night. Try replacing the odd cup of coffee with non-caffeine replacements and ditch the cola. Quitting smoking helps, however, one of the main contributing factors in hypertension is stress, so quit only when you are ready to do so. Safe exercise will also help (check whether your GP has a view on how much you should do to start with.)
Emotional stress is the big issue. Even if you feel as though you are fairly laid back, you may carry an underlying element of being constantly on ‘red alert’. Suppressed anger, fear, loss, bitterness, betrayal and other extreme emotions may build up, creating a heavy, unseen burden which builds our stress levels without us being aware. There are many ways to relieve stress including exercise and relaxation techniques, and some people benefit from hypnotherapy specifically aimed at releasing some of these repressed stressors.
Here are my top 10 tips to reduce hypertension
1. Eat less salt
2. Eat less saturated fat
3. Eat more leafy vegetables
4. Reduce alcohol intake
5. Use the stairs instead of the lift
6. Spend time with nature
7. Meditate (there are lots of groups or download a guided meditation track)
8. Avoid unnecessarily stressful situations
9. Spend time with uplifting people
10. Seek treatment and training for stress reduction