High blood pressure, also known in medical terms as hypertension, occurs when the walls of the arteries of an individual receive persistently elevated blood pressure. Thus, requiring the heart to work harder in order to pump blood to the rest of the body.
Left unchecked over a prolonged period of time, high blood pressure can cause other health conditions, such as increased chances of stroke and even kidney and heart diseases.
While some factors that lead to high blood pressure are beyond an individual's control, such as age and family history, there are also other causes that can managed.
In this article, we highlight five effective ways to control high blood pressure, without relying on medication.
# 1 Watch your diet
There are simple tweaks you can make to your diet to reduce your blood pressure.
For a start, cutting down on excessive alcohol intake can help regulate blood pressure. Consumption of other beverages such as caffeine and sugary drinks can also cause short and sharp increase in blood pressure.
If you have already been diagnosed with hypertension, your doctor (or dietician) would have recommended an appropriate diet plan that includes additional daily servings of fruits and vegetables along with foods that have reduced sodium levels (e.g. less processed food).
It's also worth watching your weight as maintaining a healthy weight is another effective way of regulating your blood pressure.
# 2 Exercise more
A sedentary lifestyle is never ideal, especially so if you are looking to lower your blood pressure. You can make a positive lifestyle change by incorporating regular exercise into your routine.
On a daily basis, consider taking additional walks by opting to take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator. If you drive to the office, consider parking your car at a slightly further (and hopefully cheaper) carpark so that you can work in an additional walk, twice a day.
If weekly gym sessions are too difficult and time-consuming, try to get friends and family members together to participate in a wide variety of free workouts supported by the Health Promotion Board such as the Sundays @ The Park program.
Alternatively, if you are an AIA Vitality member, you can take part in the AIA Vitality Weekly Challenge to earn additional perks while you keep fit.
# 3 Get sufficient sleep
For busy working adults, getting adequate sleep can be challenging. Our bosses need us in the office, our families need us at home, and sometimes, even our kids' teachers need us in school. This doesn't even include time to hang out with friends or participate in hobbies.
However, the benefits of getting enough sleep cannot be overstated. Studies have shown that lack of sleep may lead to a spike in blood pressure. Sufficient rest is essential for cardiovascular health. By giving your body sufficient rest, you allow it enough time to recuperate.
Instead of forcing yourself to sleep early when your mind is still active, or to stay in bed later in the morning even though you are already wide awake, a better strategy would be to cultivate a regular sleeping routine. To effectively do this, you need to create a comfortable environment around your bed, including keeping away electronic devices (consider using a traditional alarm clock) and having good curtains to block out light.
In addition, having a regular eating routine is important to being able to get a good night's rest. What you eat and how much you eat during dinner will impact the quality of your sleep. This means not overeating as well as avoiding foods that are too spicy, sugary or acidic just before bedtime.
# 4 Stop smoking
Along with the other harmful effects that smoking causes such as lung cancer and heart diseases, it also increases your blood pressure. The more you smoke, the more these problems compound over time.
These exclude the additional risk of exposing your loved ones to second-hand smoke.
# 5 Reduce stress
Being in stressful situations can cause your blood pressure to increase. This is because your body reacts to the stress by releasing stress hormones into the blood. This is why you sometimes feel your heart beating faster during periods where you may be stressed, or nervous, such as when you about to give a presentation to an important client, or when you are sitting for an examination.
On its own, stress isn't always a bad thing. The right amount of stress can even elevate performance levels. However, chronic stress can be harmful.
One simple way to reduce stress is to avoid everyday situations that unnecessarily agitate you. Do you always get angry on your morning commutes because you are rushing to get to work on time? If so, try to leave your home 10 minutes earlier.
For stressful situations that are unavoidable, being aware helps. If you know a colleague gets you riled up each time the person (rudely) demands for help, being aware of it can help you manage your reaction and emotions, thus transforming a potentially stressful situation into a harmless one.
For other ways to manage your stress, watch our AIA LIVE Matters session – Managing Stress for a Happier You
Prevention is better than cure
As with all health conditions, prevention is always better than cure. You can easily implement the healthy lifestyle changes which will not only help you reduce the risk of getting hypertension, but also other types of chronic illnesses as well.
AIA Vitality encourages you to make real changes to your health and rewards you for accomplishing them. You can earn Vitality Points, that can be turned into rewards, when you make simple healthy lifestyle choice such as clocking in a minimum number of steps each day, heading to the gym or going for health screenings.