Hypertension is a common condition but many are unaware they have the problem as it initially does not show any symptoms

A Chennai-based business proprietor, Balakrishnan says, “Due to stress and erratic eating habits my blood pressure was high. After consulting my physician, I reduced my salt and fat consumption, and started walking daily. I feel better now and my blood pressure has reduced. I am so glad I have made these lifestyle changes.”

Hypertension is a common condition; its incidence is increasing day by day and people are ignorant as it initially doesn’t show any symptoms. Hypertension, referred to as the ‘silent killer’ is especially dangerous because if often has no specific warning signs or symptoms. Of those who have high blood pressure, almost 35 per cent don’t even know they have it. Early diagnosis is important in order to normalise blood pressure and prevent complications. The only way to find out if you are suffering from high blood pressure is to have it measured on a regular basis.

High blood pressure causes the heart to work too hard. It increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. It can damage the eyes, kidneys, liver and the nervous system. Although genes play a role in the occurrence of hypertension, lifestyle habits play a crucial part in controlling this condition.

Exercise, rest and diet

Benefits of exercise

Findings from multiple clinical trials indicate that the right kind of exercise lowers blood pressure as much as some drugs. Those who are physically active have a 25 - 50 per cent lower risk of developing hypertension. Regular, low to moderate impact aerobic exercise can reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 10mm Hg.

Cardiovascular exercises such as walking, cycling, swimming should be performed 4 to 6 days a week, for a duration of 30 to 60 minutes. Strength training exercises should be safely designed with the help of a fitness professional. Heavy resistance weight training exercises are not recommended as they can elevate blood pressure; you can do weight-training exercises using light resistance.

Simple deep breathing exercises, pranayama and meditation can decrease stress and can lower blood pressure.

Get adequate rest and relaxation

Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep allows the pulse to slow down and relaxes the body, it reduces overall fatigue, anxiety and stress.

Watch your salt intake!

When you eat too much salt, the body retains water to “wash” the salt from the body. This can result in high blood pressure. Limit salt intake to 2,400 milligrams per day (1-teaspoon). Low sodium diets not only help to keep the blood pressure from rising, but also help blood pressure medicines to work better.

Get the facts on high blood pressure

Maintain a healthy weight

Cut down on salt intake

Quit smoking

Limit alcohol consumption

Find ways to de-stress

Reduce caffeine consumption

Reduce high cholesterol levels

Be physically active

Follow healthy eating habits

Exercise regularly

Dos and don’ts

Cut back on fats and preservatives

Eat fish and white meat instead of red meat.

Remove skin from poultry before cooking.

Use low fat milk instead of whole milk.

Consume no more than 2 egg yolks per week.

Avoid packaged, pre-cooked foods.

Caution

Always check with your physician for specific guidelines based on your current health status before starting any form of physical exercise.

The writer is a certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist.

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