Many people think that high blood pressure is something the mostly affects men, but primary hypertension is just as common in women as it is in men. If your blood pressure is usually above 130/80, you have high blood pressure. When you are hypertensive, your heart is having to work a lot than it should have to in order to circulate blood through your body and to all of your organs. This increased pressure can lead to illnesses such as heart disease, heart attack, stroke, kidney and eye damage. The higher your blood pressure, the more your risk increases. Heart disease is the number one killer of women. Hypertension is very serious.
Developing hypertension is related to a variety of factors. The main factors are genetic predisposition (in your genes), lifestyle, and dietary factors. Having a diet high in salt and alcohol for example, will make you more likely to have high blood pressure. Being African American happens to be one of the genetic risk factors FYI.
We can’t change our genes or family history of high blood pressure but there are things we can control to decrease our risk. There are six lifestyle and dietary factors that have been identified as lowering the risk of developing hypertension.
- Body mass index of less than 25
- 30 minutes of vigorous exercise every day
- Adherence to the DASH diet (see DASH diet below)
- Modest alcohol intake
- Infrequent use of nonnarcotic analgesics (pain meds)
- Folate intake of 400 mcg/day or more
I happen to live in the pork capital of the country and we have an extremely high rate of hypertension. Not only is our diet terrible in Memphis, but we drive everywhere! Our city is not very pedestrian or biker friendly, so no one is getting in their cardio by walking to work or to the market. In Shelby County 2,499 women died due to cardiac disease between 2012-2014 according to Shelby County Public Health.
Lifestyle changes is what is necessary to prevent or get rid of hypertension and keeping us from having complications such as heart disease and strokes. If you are on medication, take it every day. When you are regulated your provider can wean you off of the medication and you can try to manage your blood pressure with your diet and exercise. Don’t just wake up one day and decide you’re never taking it again. Try to make changes according to the 6 things listed above. And do not smoke. Smoking also increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.
So make those changes and take care of your heart! It’s the only one you’ll get 🙂
DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet
Here’s a list of the food groups and how many servings of each you should have per day. For a diet that has 2000 calories per day, you should eat:
- Vegetables (4 to 5 servings a day)
- Fruits (4 to 5 servings a day)
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products, such as milk and yogurt (2 to 3 servings a day)
- Whole grains (7 to 8 servings a day, and 3 should be whole grains)
- Fish, lean meats, and poultry (2 servings or less a day)
- Beans, seeds, and nuts (4 to 5 servings a week)
- Fats and oils (2 to 3 servings a day)
- Sweets or added sugars, such as jelly, hard candy, maple syrup, sorbet, and sugar (fewer than 5 servings a week)
From your friendly neighborhood nurse!
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