Easing the hypertension

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Proper self-care and support from Adena will keep your blood pressure in check

When considering health, many people wait for external symptoms or unusual feelings before addressing their concerns. However, when it comesto insidious conditions such as hypertension,one must be aware and proactive with theirlifestyle choices ahead of time.

Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is a condition in which the force of blood pushing against the artery walls is excessively high. This can lead to other health problems including an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke and death.

What makes hypertension so dangerous is its frequently complete lack of symptoms — the disease is often dubbed “the silent killer.” So, what is the threshold for blood pressure before having to worry about hypertension?

Dr. Kerry Bellew, a family physician with Adena Chillicothe Family Physicians, says the guidelines that define hypertension differ from year to year, but he specifies that most physicians follow the JNC8 guidelines.

Those state that blood pressure of 140/90 and above is labelled as uncontrolled hypertension (150/90 for people 60 years and older). Severely elevated blood pressure will be considered a hypertensive urgency, and if it goes as far as causing organ damage or failure, it will be classified a hypertensive emergency.

Hypertension can be initiated by several things, but those causes are not always clear. Secondary hypertension indicates that high blood pressure is the consequence of another medical condition, usually one that affects the kidneys, arteries or endocrine system. Primary hypertension, which is most common in adults, has no clear cause but is often attributed to genetics, poor diet, aging, stress and lack of exercise.

Dr. Bellew says high blood pressure has more acute causes, one of them being undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea. It is also advisable to pay attention to blood pressure during pregnancy, as inadequate blood flow means less vitamins and nutrients supplied to the fetus.

As made clear by this extensive list, hypertension goes hand in hand with many medical conditions. The circumstances may seem grim, but one can mitigate the risks inherent with hypertension by making some simple lifestyle modifications.

When it comes to keeping blood pressure in check, it should come as no surprise that several health-centric lifestyle decisions can drastically affect your numbers. The first and most notable factor is weight. Blood pressure and body weight are often related, so increasing your weight will increase your blood pressure and vice versa. Being overweight often leads to sleep apnea which can further increase blood pressure. Dr. Bellew points out that losing 10 to 20 pounds can drop your blood pressure as much as 10 to 20 points.

Exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet are also great contributors to lowering blood pressure. Dr. Bellew recommends moderate exercise, starting at 30 minutes, four to five times a week.

On top of eating healthy, limiting sodium intake is crucial to maintaining proper blood pressure. Sodium’s effect on blood pressure varies from person to person, but a low-sodium diet is generally recommended. Reading food labels and avoiding processed foods are great ways to start.

Drinking alcohol and smoking also increase blood pressure. Moderating alcohol intake is advised, while quitting smoking altogether is highly recommended.

Limiting caffeine intake will also have positive changes on blood pressure. Aside from external factors, one’s mental state can also influence blood pressure.

Managing stress by establishing moderate expectations, avoiding stressful triggers and taking time each day to relax are just a few ways to reduce stress. The more lifestyle modifications you make, the better you’ll be in the long run.

Making significant lifestyle changes is usually not easy, but getting support can help. Adena Health System provides high quality hypertension treatment at locations across south central Ohio. Adena works with patients to control their blood pressure through lifestyle changes and prescription medications, if necessary.

Adena has several specialists onboard that can cover most needs, but before reaching out, it’s best to know what you can do for yourself. Hypertension is a serious condition that affects millions of lives, and making the adjustments toward healthier living is the first step toward better wellness.

If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kerry Bellew, call 740-779-4100.