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Tips on how to prevent high blood pressure, or improve control

Hypertension is a very common public health problem that cuts across all race and socio-economic groups. It is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, heart attack, heart failure and peripheral artery disease.  In about 90% of cases of hypertension, there is no known cause and it is described as essential hypertension. It tends to run in the family. However there are things we can do to delay or prevent the development of high blood pressure. For those who have developed it already, these tips may also help to achieve better control.

  • Low salt diet, the recommended daily intake of salt is below 5 – 6g/day. Note, though we use salt synonymously with sodium, 1g of sodium is equivalent to 2.5g of salt. So when we read labels on packaged food or drinks, we can do the conversion. Also while cooking, use little or no salt.
  • Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise (brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling), 5 times a week, each session lasting 30 minutes or more.
  • Eat adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, these are high in potassium and low in salt, which helps to reduce the salt in the body.
  • Adequate sleep, 6 to 8 hours a day, helps to reduce the stress hormone in the system, thereby contributing to a lower blood pressure. If you have a sleep disorder like obstructive sleep , seek treatment for it, because it is associated with high blood pressure.
  • Weight loss, if you are obese or overweight, losing weight goes a long way in controlling your blood pressure. A study has shown that weight loss of 4 kg by diet alone can lead to a fall in BP of 4.5/3.2mmHg in hypertensive individuals.
  • Stress management is important, because whether we like it or not, we all experience different types of stress in our lives. Our body produces stress hormones like adrenaline to help us fight or flee from such situations. These hormones increase the blood pressure, and stressful events have been known to trigger hypertension. So we all have to find ways to manage stress.
  • Avoid heavy alcohol intake, cutting down alcohol intake from heavy to moderate, reduces your BP by 2–4 /1-2 mmHg.
  • Stop smoking, smokers are more likely to develop malignant forms of hypertension with its complications.

About Dr Emeka Okocha

Consultant Cardiologist with interest in preventive cardiology

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