A recent study, from the National Institutes of Health, shows that 19% of young adults between the ages of 19 and 26 have high blood pressure and are at increased risk of heart attacks, stroke, and heart failure. It pleases us to know that on the cover of the National Institutes of Health/ National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's "Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure," they feature pictures of a middle aged couple running, feet standing on a scale and a bowl of salad. They don't feature pills or needles on the cover, which is encouraging. Although age and family history may certainly be risk factors for high blood pressure or hypertension, there are other risk factors that are well within an individuals control.
1. Stop smoking. Smoking and tobacco use play a significant role in high blood pressure. Nicotine increases blood pressure and heart rate. It is addictive. It stinks and it increases your risk for other health challenges including lung cancer and mouth cancer, among other things. Talk to your doctor or visit www.lung.org/stop-smoking for support on helping break the habit.
2. Meditate and Manage Stress. Twenty minutes of daily meditation is one of the most effective ways to help decrease heart rate and blood pressure. A meta-analysis of nine randomized, controlled trials indicate that Transcendental Meditation (TM) may have the potential to reduce blood pressure.
3. Interval training. Regular consistent exercise has been shown to help prevent and treat hypertension. Newer research shows that HIIT (high intensity interval training) may be an even better way to go when it comes to controlling high blood pressure. HIIT consists of roughly one minute to 4-minute bursts of high-intensity exercise interspersed with intervals of active recovery or rest. Before you begin a new interval training program, be sure to speak with your doctor and work with a qualified trainer who can monitor your vitals throughout your training period.
4. Eat a plant-based, whole grain diet with lowfat dairy and lean proteins. More specifically, foods like berries, bananas, plain yogurt, dark chocolate, flaxseeds, oats, and hibiscus tea may all help bring down the pressure.
5. Lose weight. Sure there are plenty of "skinny people" with high blood pressure. But the truth is that the more fat you have and the more that you weight, the higher likelihood you have of developing high blood pressure. Overweight individuals who also have high blood pressure are at significantly greater risk of dying from heart-related problems. Losing weight reduces the strain on the heart. Even small weight loss can result in reduced blood pressure. When you focus on actions #1-4, and include portion control and positive mindset, the weight should begin to come off naturally.
If you need to lose weight, consult with your healthcare provider about healthy options. Never stop taking medication before speaking with your healthcare provider. Let them know you are interested in going off the meds and ask them to work with you on a plan to help reach your goals.