Blood pressure above 140/90 mm Hg is considered hypertension, and is one of the most prevalent and preventable conditions. In Cameroon, the prevalence of hypertension spans from 5.7% in rural settings through 21.9% in semi urban to 47.5% in urban milieu, with a national average survey of 31.0%. There is also an increase in the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failures.
Medicines are usually recommended to bring down the blood pressure, but these drugs may cause a number of side effects, including insomnia, dizziness and leg cramps. Many people are unaware that blood pressure can be lowered without using medications. Even if you are on medication, simple lifestyle changes may help in reducing the need for medication to control the pressure.
Here are few lifestyle changes that would be helpful in lowering the blood pressure:
- Maintain a healthy body weight – Blood pressure is found to be related to body weight. The more weight loss, the lower the blood pressure. It is also said that lowering body weight would make medications more effective. Extra weight around the waistline (obesity) is yet another factor that increases the risk of high blood pressure.
- Exercise regularly – Studies show that regular physical activity helps in reducing the blood pressure by 4 to 9 mm of Hg. Thus, increasing the activity level will automatically have a lowering effect on the pressure. Develop an exercise regimen after discussing with your doctor. Follow the restrictions carefully and gradually buildup the routine, if you have not been regularly doing exercise.
- Healthy diet – Having a healthy diet can bring down the pressure considerably. Try to include more of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products such as yogurt, cottage cheese, milk to get healthy benefits. Reduce the intake of saturated fats and cholesterol such as palm oil. You can also consider improving the potassium intake through appropriate diet e.g. in bananas, potatoes and sweet potatoes. This will help in reducing the effect of sodium in increasing the blood pressure.
- Reduce sodium intake – Reducing the consumption of sodium in the diet can help in lowering the pressure by 2 to 8 mm Hg. Limit the intake of sodium to less than 3/4 of a teaspoon a day, particularly if you are above 50-years-old, or have conditions like hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. The best way to reduce sodium in the diet is to avoid processed foods and avoid adding extra salt to the food.
- Limit alcohol consumption – Drinking too much alcohol can increase the blood pressure by several points. Cut back the extra alcohol and gradually reduce the quantity. [How much alcohol is enough? Read more]
- Quit smoking – Along with a number of other conditions, smoking can increase the blood pressure. For a person who smokes continuously throughout the day, the blood pressure remains high. Passive smoking also should be avoided as much as possible.
- Reduce stress – Stress is one of the leading causes of hypertension. Try to eliminate all stress triggers or try to adjust with them in a healthier way.
If you must remember something, remember these;
- To ensure low blood pressure, one must change unhealthy lifestyle habits to see results.
- High blood pressure is one of the causes of about 15% of deaths in the country, and also increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Blood pressure above 140/90 mm Hg is considered hypertension.
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