According to the American Heart Association, over 40% of non-Hispanic African-Americans have high blood pressure, the highest of any population in the world. It is unknown why minorities are more susceptible to having high blood pressure, but research may have identified a gene that makes us more salt-sensitive. What is known is that major contributing factors include obesity, lack of physical activity and diets that are heavy in salt.
The most commonly prescribed treatment for high blood pressure is medication. Two classes of high blood pressure medications that are commonly prescribed for African-Americans and for those of us over the age of 65, are diuretics, aka water pills, and calcium channel blockers. Diuretics help eliminate sodium and water and is usually the first medication prescribed for controlling high blood pressure.
Calcium channel blockers are considered to be one of the most dangerous drugs prescribed for high blood pressure. While a few of the side effects from this drug include swollen feet, ankles and legs, drowsiness and weight gain it has also been linked to a 60% increased risk of dying of a heart attack and now to cancer.
An alternative to drug dependency is making healthy lifestyle choices. That means losing the extra pounds. Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes in controlling blood pressure. The more you weight, the higher your blood pressure. Besides shedding pounds, reducing your waistline is equally important in maintaining healthy blood pressure. Women should have a waist circumference of 35 inches or less to be considered non-obese.
Along with weight loss is regular exercise several times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes. Exercise can help you avoid developing hypertension if you have elevated blood pressure. If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can lower your blood pressure to safer levels. Various levels of exercise can range from walking, cycling or swimming to dancing, high-intensity interval training to aerobics. Strength training should also be included. Always consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
Eat a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet also known as the DASH diet is considered the healthiest diet in America. Originally designed to lower blood pressure, the DASH diet has proved to be very effective for weight loss, lowering cholesterol, managing and preventing diabetes and reducing the risk of heart failure by approximately 50%.
Reduce your sodium intake. Read labels to help you choose low-sodium alternatives. Eat fewer processed foods which are loaded with excess sodium. Instead of adding salt, use herbs and spices to add flavor to your food. Don’t feel you have to go cold turkey on the salt. Ease into it or try a salt alternative.
Reduce your stress or find healthier ways to cope with them. Change your expectations knowing that there are things that you can’t change or control, but you can control how you react to them. Make time each day for you by taking time to sit quietly and breathe deeply, take a walk, volunteer, or engage in a hobby or activity that you enjoy. Practice gratitude.
Home blood pressure monitors are an effective tool to help you keep tabs on your blood pressure. Knowing your blood pressure numbers let you know that your lifestyle changes are working or need adjustment and alert you to any potential health complications.
Featured Recipe: Berry Banana Smoothie
This smoothie contains nearly a quarter of your daily need for potassium, which helps keep your blood pressure in check. The best part: It uses ingredients you likely have on hand—banana, berries, yogurt, and oatmeal. ,and it delivers nutrients that many of us fall short on, including calcium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin D, protein, and fiber."
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 1/2 banana (peeled, frozen or fresh)
- 1/2 cup berries (frozen or fresh)
- 1/4 cup oats (raw or cooked)
- Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth. If too thick, add more milk.