High blood pressure or hypertension significantly increases the risk of heart, brain and kidney diseases Picture: Pixabay
THE CHANGEABLE weather, big rises and drops in temperature can be hard on anyone, but if you have hypertension, it might affect you even worse.
Your blood pressure measurement takes into account how much blood is passing through your blood vessels and the amount of resistance the blood meets while the heart is pumping.
Narrow arteries increase resistance, so the narrower your arteries are, the higher your blood pressure will be. Hypertension typically develops over the course of several years.
The typical symptoms you want to look out for include headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, nose bleeds – or you may not notice any symptoms. It may go undetected for a long time, but high blood pressure can cause damage to your blood vessels and organs, especially the brain, heart, eyes, and kidneys.
Primary or essential hypertension is the most common type, which develops over time, due to genetic predisposition combined with poor lifestyle and physical changes, such as poor diet, physical inactivity, stress, alcohol abuse and weight gain. Secondary hypertension is due to problems in the heart or in other organs, such as the kidneys, thyroid, adrenals – or due to hormonal tumours. Some medications – even the over-the-counter painkillers can raise blood pressure over time. It is very important to get a thorough investigation, not just take the second and third prescription.
If you have excess weight or your diet and lifestyle is less than desirable, it is time to get your gear into action. Simple, small changes can make a huge difference in most cases. No miracle pills, just good old fashioned sensible eating and exercising are the safest, healthiest way. The Mediterranean diet has long been established as probably the heart-friendliest diets that are out there, with substantial research behind it.
Do not confuse the Mediterranean with the modern Italian diet heavy on pasta and pizza. Not surprisingly, the heart-supporting Mediterranean diet is full of colourful vegetables, fruits, fish, olive oil and low in saturated fats and sugars (also of refined carbohydrates). Eggs with vegetables, such as an omelette with wholegrain sourdough bread drizzled with herby olive oil, soup or salad lunch and a fish dinner with half the plate covered with multi-coloured vegetables are the examples of the meals, with fresh fruits and nuts as snack as needed. If you need to lose weight, restrict starches (breads, pasta, rice, potato) to a fistful and only once a day.
Exercise, preferably in the fresh air and early in the morning is also encouraged. The emphasis here is not on intensity, but of maintainability. You need to be able to exercise at least three times a week for at least thirty minutes, and get the heart rate up a bit. If you are short on time and / or equipment, I recommend simple 2-minutes rounds of squeezing your large muscle groups from top to bottom for 20 minutes three times a week may result in a reduction of over 10-point plunge in the systolic blood pressure!
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