Keeping well hydrated by drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily (even more if working in hot and humid conditions) is beneficial for the blood pressure.
High blood pressure (BP) or hypertension is a condition caused by the persistent high pressure of blood against the walls of arteries. It is also called systolic pressure (constantly greater than 139 mmHg) or diastolic pressure (constantly more than 89 mmHg). High blood pressure occurs when the body’s smaller blood vessels (arterioles) become narrow, forcing the heart to work harder to push blood through arteries. It typically develops over several years and is often asymptomatic. The higher the blood pressure, the higher the risk for a person to have other health problems, such as heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Dehydration has the following effect on blood pressure:
- Causes the blood to become thicker or viscous due to the reduced water content in the blood.
- Causes the kidneys to release renin. This results in sodium and water retention in the body to correct the low fluid volume. This response, if constant, can cause blood pressure to be high.
- Causes the release of vasopressin hormone in the brain. This causes the blood vessels to narrow and sodium retention in the body. This results in high blood pressure.
If these effects remain constant in the body due to continuous dehydration, the brain trains itself to maintain a blood pressure higher than normal so that the organs receive blood supply. These changes over a longer period cause hypertension. Uncontrolled hypertension requires medical attention and treatment.
Different types of hypertension
In 95% of high blood pressure cases, the underlying cause is unknown. This type of high blood pressure is called "essential hypertension." High blood pressure tends to run in families and is more likely to affect men than women. Essential hypertension is also greatly influenced by diet and lifestyle. Most people with high blood pressure are salt sensitive, and a slight increase in salt intake may increase their blood pressure.
When a direct cause for high blood pressure can be identified, the condition is described as secondary hypertension. Among the known causes of secondary hypertension, kidney disease ranks the highest. Hypertension can also be triggered by tumors or other abnormalities that cause the adrenal glands to secrete excess amounts of the hormones that elevate blood pressure. Birth control pills (specifically those containing estrogen) and pregnancy can boost blood pressure.
Natural remedies to lower blood pressure and preventive measures
Healthy lifestyle changes can help control the factors that cause hypertension. Some of the most common home remedies include:
- Healthy diet: A heart-healthy diet is vital for helping to reduce high blood pressure. It’s also important for managing hypertension and reducing the risk of complications. The foods are
- Whole grains
- Lean proteins, such as fish
- Exercise: Increasing physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best practices to lower high blood pressure. Regularly exercising makes the heart stronger and more efficient at pumping blood, which lowers the pressure in the arteries.
- Managing stress: Stress is a key driver of high blood pressure. Being in stressful situations repeatedly makes the body to be in a constant fight-or-flight mode. On a physical level, this causes a faster heart rate and constricted blood vessels. Practicing yoga, deep breathing and meditation helps manage stress.
- Cleaner lifestyle: Smoking and alcohol consumption are considered strong risk factors for heart disease. The chemicals in tobacco are also known to damage blood vessels. Also, people who drink excessive alcohol have a higher risk of developing hypertension. Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol consumption have been proved to be beneficial in lowering blood pressure.
- Herbs: Parsley, basil, celery seeds, garlic, thyme and cinnamon are found useful in reducing the systolic and diastolic blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels, lowering cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (LDH). They are also enriched in antioxidants and vitamin C. Also, they act as calcium channel blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.
- Reducing dietary sodium: Increased sodium intake has been directly associated with the occurrence of high blood pressure. People with hypertension and those with an increased risk for heart disease may need to keep their daily sodium intake between 1,500-2,300 mg per day.
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How can I lower my blood pressure immediately?
High blood pressure (BP) is dangerous. It can lead to many health problems, including heart disease, brain stroke, kidney disease, vision loss, sexual dysfunction, and more. Below are a few common ways to reduce BP immediately:
- Staying calm: Too much stress or worries may shoot BP. Being calm can actually reduce BP. Sit down and focus on breathing. Take a few deep breaths and hold them for a few seconds before releasing them. Deep slow breathing can help lower your stress levels, thereby bringing down the BP. One of the main reasons why BP shoots up is erratic breathing patterns during times of stress. That’s why deep breathing helps in lowering hypertension and regulating BP. Practicing yoga and meditation along with slow breathing every day may give better results simultaneously. Make stress reduction a priority.
- Dark chocolate: Eating a piece of dark chocolate may help in reducing BP because they help in releasing endorphins (chemicals produced by the body to relieve stress and pain). Dark chocolate is also rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, which have been shown in some studies to reduce BP. It is however recommended to stick to smaller amounts of dark chocolates and choose dark chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa content.
- Hibiscus or chamomile tea: A cup of hibiscus or chamomile tea may also help in relieving stress and reducing BP. However, it should not be taken with black tea or coffee.
- Berries: Berries have many health benefits, and one of them is improving BP and reducing other heart disease risks. Berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, have lots of polyphenols, which are great for the heart. They’re also really tasty. We may also add them to a smoothie made with low-fat or fat-free yogurt without added sugar.
- Lie down: It’s harder for the heart to pump blood when you are standing up straight. It has to work against gravity to send blood upwards all over your body. When a person lies down, the heart and head are at the same level, so it doesn’t have to pump very hard. This will help reduce the load on the heart and lower the BP.
- Sleep: Not getting enough sleep or rest can cause BP to increase. An individual may require at least six hours of sleep every night. Sleep helps in regulating stress hormones, bringing down the BP naturally.
What type of food is recommended to control blood pressure?
As per the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology, a person has high blood pressure (BP) if their BP is more than 130/80, which means that nearly half of all adults may need to lower their BP.
Below are a few common diet changes that can help in controlling BP:
- Moderate sodium reduction: BP in hypertensive individuals can be lowered with a reduction in salt intake, keeping it to below 1500 mg.
- Olive oil: Olive oil may be one of the most important ingredients of a healthy diet. It is packed with antioxidants and polyphenols that have various health benefits, including the reduction of BP. Cooking veggies with olive oil also allows your body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins K, A, D, and E. It is always recommended to opt for a quality extra-virgin olive oil for maximum health benefits.
- Flaxseeds: Several studies have shown that flaxseeds are a powerful superfood when it comes to reducing hypertension. They contain α-linolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fatty acid, that has been found to reduce BP. They can also be sprinkled on salads, smoothies, or baked goods.
- High-potassium and magnesium-rich foods: Unless you have poor kidney function, a potassium-rich diet helps lower BP. Potassium helps the kidneys flush sodium out of your system, which in turn can cause your BP to decrease. Potassium-rich foods include spinach, orange, papaya, grapes, and banana. Some other high-potassium foods to try are melons, apricots, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tuna, salmon, beans, nuts, seed, Swiss chard, and white beans. Smoothies with banana, spinach, and avocado can also be considered a snack or breakfast. Magnesium may also help in relaxing the blood vessels, making it easier for the blood to pass through. Foods rich in magnesium include vegetables, dairy, chicken, legumes, and whole grains.
Apart from the aforementioned options, limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining weight as recommended for height, exercising daily, and avoiding smoking are the best ways to lower BP in the long term.
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Medscape. New Hypertension Guidelines: JNC 7. Journal Watch. 2003;2(5). https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/457298
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High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a disease in which pressure within the arteries of the body is elevated. About 75 million people in the US have hypertension (1 in 3 adults), and only half of them are able to manage it. Many people do not know that they have high blood pressure because it often has no has no warning signs or symptoms.
Systolic and diastolic are the two readings in which blood pressure is measured. The American College of Cardiology released new guidelines for high blood pressure in 2017. The guidelines now state that blood normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg. If either one of those numbers is higher, you have high blood pressure.
The American Academy of Cardiology defines high blood pressure slightly differently. The AAC considers 130/80 mm Hg. or greater (either number) stage 1 hypertension. Stage 2 hypertension is considered 140/90 mm Hg. or greater.
If you have high blood pressure you are at risk of developing life threatening diseases like stroke and heart attack.
REFERENCE: CDC. High Blood Pressure. Updated: Nov 13, 2017.
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