An Expert Explains 10 Lifestyle Adjustments for Controlling High Blood Pressure

Prolonged periods of untreated high blood pressure pose a risk for cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, strokes, and mortality.

10 Lifestyle Changes To Help Manage High Blood Pressure, Expert Explains
10 Lifestyle Changes To Help Manage High Blood Pressure, Expert Explains

Blood pressure refers to the force exerted by the flowing blood against the walls of the blood vessels. Normal blood pressure typically measures below 120/80. Readings between 120/80 and 139/89 are categorized as prehypertension, while levels equal to or exceeding 140/90 indicate hypertension (high blood pressure). Hypertension is associated with a heightened risk of heart disease, stroke, heart failure, irregular heart rhythms, sudden cardiac arrest, and kidney failure. The longer high blood pressure remains untreated, the greater the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, strokes, and mortality.

In an exclusive discussion with OnlyMyHealth, Dr. Tapan Ghose, Director and Head of the Department of Cardiology at Fortis Flt. Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital in New Delhi, elaborates on ten strategies for managing high blood pressure.

Adjustments to Lifestyle for High Blood Pressure Management

Treating blood pressure typically involves three approaches. Firstly, dietary changes; secondly, adjustments in activity levels and behavior; and finally, medication if necessary. The first two methods, collectively known as therapeutic lifestyle changes, lifestyle modifications, or non-drug therapy, play a crucial role in managing blood pressure.

Non-drug therapy, particularly beneficial in certain patients initially, includes lifestyle modifications. These recommendations apply to individuals with prehypertension or those at risk of developing hypertension in the future.

1. Achieve Optimal Body Mass Index (BMI)

Strive for an optimal body mass index (BMI). BMI is computed by dividing weight in kilograms by height in square meters. For individuals of Asian descent, the ideal BMI typically falls between 18 and 22.9 kg/m².

2. Control Glucose Levels

Elevated blood glucose levels are linked to a greater risk of hypertension. Ideally, fasting plasma glucose (FPG) should be below 100 mg/dl. In diabetes, where fasting blood glucose (FBG) exceeds 126 mg/dl, the target for glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) should be below 7%.

3. Control Cholesterol Levels

Elevated blood cholesterol levels are linked to high blood pressure. For individuals of Indian descent, the ideal LDL (bad) cholesterol level is typically below 100 mg/dl.

Control Cholesterol Levels

4. Cease Tobacco Use

Both smoking and non-smoking tobacco use are correlated with an increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. It is imperative to discontinue all forms of tobacco consumption.

5. Adopt a Nutritious, Balanced Diet

Your Physique Reflects Your Diet

A balanced diet is crucial, encompassing appropriate proportions of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Carbohydrates should constitute 45 to 50% of total calorie intake, while protein intake should aim for 1 gram per kilogram of body weight. Limit oil consumption to 30 milliliters per person per day. Emphasize whole grain cereals, ample green leafy vegetables, and fruits in your diet. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), aim for a daily intake of 600 grams of fruits and vegetables per person. Adhering to three main meals and two minor meals daily adheres to the principles of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.

6. Control Salt Intake

While a hint of salt can enhance culinary delights, it’s important to recognize that both salt and sugar have been labeled as the “white poisons” of the 21st century. While our bodies need salt for survival and proper function, moderation is key. The recommended daily intake of salt is limited to 5 grams (approximately one teaspoon). Additionally, it’s advisable to avoid consuming table salt directly.

7. Exercise 

Physical activity is crucial for maintaining heart health. Isotonic exercises such as jogging, cycling, swimming, and brisk walking are particularly beneficial. However, heavy weightlifting, categorized as an isometric exercise, may not be conducive to managing blood pressure or for individuals with heart conditions.

When engaging in exercise, it’s important to follow a structured routine comprising three phases: warm-up, peak exercise, and cool-down. Asian Indians may require longer durations of exercise, approximately 40 minutes, to effectively reduce abdominal body fat.

8. Aim for at Least 7 Hours of Sleep

Sleep, with its restorative properties, plays a pivotal role in maintaining overall health. Research suggests that both insufficient sleep (less than 6 hours) and excessive sleep (more than 9 hours) are associated with increased cardiovascular events. Aim for 7 hours of sleep per night to optimize health.

Additionally, it’s essential to minimize stress levels. Strategies such as sharing responsibilities, engaging in hobbies, keeping pets, and fostering social interactions can help reduce stress and promote well-being.

9. Yoga 

Yoga, an ancient lifestyle technique originating from India, focuses on controlling the mind and achieving holistic well-being. Its philosophy comprises eight components, one of which is asana, or postural exercises. Consistent practice of yoga has been shown to effectively reduce blood pressure levels.

10. Restrict Alcohol Intake

Lastly, it’s crucial to moderate alcohol consumption. Contrary to belief, alcohol doesn’t shield Indians from cardiovascular events; in fact, some studies suggest an elevated risk of such events. Heavy alcohol intake may even contribute to resistant hypertension in certain cases. Recommended alcohol limits are 60 ml for males and 30 ml for females.

In conclusion, these ten tips are essential for both treating and preventing hypertension in individuals. They are cost-effective, safe, and focus on lifestyle practices.