We are here in midst of the 21st century, all on a chase- a chase for money, love, or just some fulfilment. But what it denies us is a moment of peace to look into the damages we do to our bodies while we are too busy getting somewhere. The resulting stress, and hence the high blood pressure is now a very common issue, and a consequence, for our chasing yet sedentary, lifestyle.
What IS High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is when your blood pressure—or the force of blood pushing against the blood vessels—is too high. A blood pressure of 130/80 or higher is considered to be hypertensive, and a blood pressure of 120-29 and more than 80 is considered elevated, meaning you’re at risk for developing hypertension.
Blood pressure elevations, or even fluctuations for that matter, are our body’s first sign of imbalance. At this stage itself it is necessary to take a step for our body’s wellbeing. The most direct way of controlling ones blood pressure is by weight loss.
How does your weight affect your Blood Pressure?
Our ideal weight for our height and age and gender is approximated as one’s Body Mass Index (BMI). If you do not exceed your ideal BMI, you are underweight, if you exceed, you are overweight while if you grossly exceed, you are obese. Each of these indicate different health issues.
When you are overweight or obese, the extra fat increases vascular resistance against your blood vessels, thus increasing the work the heart has to do to pump blood throughout the body. This extra activity puts extra strain on your heart and causes higher blood pressure.
Extra weight can exacerbate other risk factors, such as high cholesterol and insulin resistance, that also affect heart health. Insulin resistance is a particularly tricky cycle—the more fat you have, the more insulin resistant you become, causing you to secrete more insulin, causing you to store more fat. So blood pressure and diabetes are also linked.
How does high blood pressure affect your health?
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. In fact, your blood pressure rises as your body weight increases. Losing even half a kilogram can lower your blood pressure. Losing weight has an even bigger effect on those who are overweight and already have hypertension.
Overweight and obesity are also risk factors for heart disease. It also makes you more susceptible to heart attacks and diabetes.
Two key measures are used to determine if someone is overweight or obese. These are body mass index, or BMI, and waist circumference:
1. BMI is a measure of your weight relative to your height. It gives an approximation of total body fat—and that’s what increases the risk of diseases that are related to being overweight. But BMI alone does not determine risk. For example, in someone who is very muscular or who has swelling from fluid retention (called edema), BMI may overestimate body fat. BMI may underestimate body fat in older persons or those losing muscle.
2. BMI is a measure of your weight relative to your height. It gives an approximation of total body fat—and Waist measurement is often checked as well. Too much body fat in the stomach area also increases disease risk. A waist measurement of more than 35 inches in women and more than 40 inches in men is considered high.
In fact, being overweight can make you more likely to develop high blood pressure than if you are at your desirable weight. You can reduce your risk of high blood pressure by losing weight.
How do I control my blood pressure with weight loss?
Follow these recommendations to help take charge of your blood pressure, with or without the help of medication:
1. Weight loss
Blood pressure rises with body weight, so losing weight is one of the best ways to normalise your blood pressure levels. Losing weight can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure — and potentially eliminate high blood pressure. For every 0.1 kg you lose, you can drop systolic pressure 5-20 points. People who are considered pre-hypertensive can benefit significantly by dropping that extra weight.
2. Dietary changes
A diet medically proven to reduce Blood pressure is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Eating a lower-fat diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy foods can lower your systolic numbers 8-14 points. A typical DASH eating plan includes:
a. 4-5 vegetable servings per day
b. 4-5 fruit servings per day 7-8 daily servings of grains, preferably whole grains
c. 2-3 daily servings low-fat or fat-free dairy
d. 2 or fewer daily servings of lean meat, poultry, or seafood
e. 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, and beans per week
f. 2-3 daily servings of fats and oils
g. 5 servings of sweets and snacks per week
3. Get active.
At least 30 minutes each day of brisk walking or another aerobic activity could trim 4-9 points off your systolic pressure. Not mentioning the various other health benefits it also has, brisk walking is a proven mood elevator, keeping that anxiety at bay.
4. Monitor your sodium intake.
Typical adult diets average 4,000 mg of sodium daily. You can reduce this to the recommended levels of 1,500-2,300 mg by:
a. Making healthier food selections.
Foods in their natural state contain much less sodium than those that have been processed. So aim to consume fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, fresh juices, to stay full without any extra sodium.
b. Keeping processed foods to a minimum.
Sodium hides in instant foods, soups, lunchmeats, canned vegetables, processed meats (bacon, sausages, ham, canned meats and fish), etc.
c. Reducing your usual salt intake with your daily meals. Even a pinch, dash, or pre-measured packet of salt is roughly 200 mg of sodium.
d. Reading food labels and choosing lower-sodium brands.
e. Spicing up foods with fresh and dried herbs and salt-free seasonings and spices.
5. Limit your alcohol consumption.
Alcohol is known to have a narrowing effect on bodily muscles and blood vessels. This in turn, increases blood pressure, leading to hypertension over long periods.
With our very busy schedules, we must remember that our health and our body is what enable us to strive towards our goals. And to keep moving forwards, we must take care of our health by maintaining our weight and activity. Controlling our blood pressure using weight loss is the easiest start to a healthy tomorrow.