10 Tips to Manage High Blood Pressure

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. Sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it raises awareness about high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) and the impact it has on our health. Now more than before is an apt time to remind us to better manage our blood pressure.

Why Lower Blood Pressure?

  • Studies have shown that treating high blood pressure reduces dementia risks by 12 percent and Alzheimer’s disease by 16 percent.
  • The CDC reports that older people with coronary heart disease or high blood pressure may be at an increased risk for severe complications if they get the coronavirus.
  • Hypertension also increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, the first and third leading causes of death in the United States.

However, while we know controlling hypertension is better for our wellbeing, our lifestyle factors may have changed due to the current environment. As the pandemic continues, circumstances we are in may cause stress levels to increase due to new anxieties and fears. And as many continue shelter-in-place and work from home, we may eat more frequently or consume more processed foods. All these can contribute to hypertension.

Let National High Blood Pressure Education Month remind us to reset our lifestyle. Not only do healthy lifestyle changes help lower hypertension but studies have shown that about a third of dementia cases globally can be prevented as well.

What’s Your Blood Pressure?

Ten Tips to Manage High Blood Pressure

Lose weight

Losing even a little weight can make a difference, and is the most effective means of lowering your high blood pressure. About 2.2 pounds or 1kg of weight lost can reduce your blood pressure by 1mm Hg.

Read labels, eat less sodium

Find out how much sodium is in your food by reading food labels. Choose low-sodium if possible, and eat fewer processed foods. Limit sodium intake to 2,300 mg a day or less. Use herbs and spices to flavor your food.

The American Heart Association reminds us that high levels of sodium may be present in  the following popular foods known as the “salty six”:

  • breads and rolls
  • cold cuts and cured meats
  • pizza
  • poultry
  • soup
  • sandwiches

Eat a healthy diet

Plan your meals ahead and make a shopping list before you go grocery shopping. Keep a food diary to monitor foods you eat.

Ensure your diet is rich in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats. Diets such as the  Mediterranean diet or DASH diet can help not only your heart but brain health too. According to recent results of a study in the Alzheimer’s and Dementia: the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, consuming a Mediterranean diet showed evidence of higher cognitive function.

Quit smoking

While the connection between smoking and blood pressure has to be determined, smoking has shown to increase blood pressure temporarily. Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Quitting smoking can help also reduce the risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Limit alcohol

It is a myth that red wine is good for your heart. Instead drinking too much too often can lead to an increase in your blood pressure, as well as reduce the effectiveness of medication.

Limit alcohol consumption to one drink a day for women and two for men, and blood pressure could potentially be lowered by 4mm Hg.

What is a standard drink size?

Less caffeine

While the effects of caffeine on blood pressure are still questionable, it has shown to raise blood pressure up to 10mm Hg in people who rarely drink it but regular caffeine drinkers might no experience any effects.

Measure your blood pressure within 30 minutes of drinking and if it increases 5 to 10mm Hg, you might be sensitive and should consult a physician.

Exercise

Aim for at least 30 mins, five days a week to reduce your blood pressure by about 5 to 8mm Hg. Exercise also helps with weight loss. Remember to choose an activity you enjoy so you can do it regularly.

While gyms may be closed during this time, there are many virtual classes available to get you moving. Activities such as walking your dog, hiking, swimming, or gardening can help too. Stay motivated by having a variety of activities and keeping it fun.

Strength Train

Weightlifting can help reduce blood pressure. Include it in your exercise regimen about twice a week. Strength training can also help you lose weight.

Manage stress

We acknowledge these are stressful times for most people, especially those who are elderly, in isolation, depressed, or alone.

Connect with others and talk with people you trust about your concerns. Try video chats with your friends and family.

Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.

Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.

Collaborate with your doctor

Continue taking any medication you’ve been prescribed. Talk to your doctor about home monitoring your blood pressure to see if you should be keeping tabs on it. Be an advocate for your health and keep track of your blood pressure levels and any questions you have for your physician.

Collaborate with your physician if you have any concerns or would like help managing your blood pressure.

Assess and Monitor Cognitive Health

Just as you monitor your blood pressure (and other vital signs like temperature, pulse, and breathing rate) and should ask your physician about it at your annual check-up, it is also important to ask them to regularly monitor what we believe should be the fifth vital sign – your cognitive health.

As you make lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure, these changes also impact your cognitive health.

Like a blood pressure cuff for the brain, the Savonix Mobile app  assesses and monitors your brain health over time. Use our app to test early and often for detection of dementia symptoms usually not recognized until they have reached more advanced stages.

Why Use the Savonix Mobile App?

  • Accurate and detects cognitive impairment up to 84 percent greater than traditional pen and paper tests.
  • Tests more than 12 cognitive domains such as attention, memory, and focus
  • Available in English, Japanese, and Chinese, with Spanish coming soon
  • You’ll receive a summary report of your brain health, which you can share with your physician should you have any concerns.

Our cognitive tests are also easy to use and can be taken safely in the comfort of your home at any time on any of your mobile devices.

Yes, Test My Cognition!


References

Changes You Can Make to Manage High Blood Pressure. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure

10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20046974

Further evidence that controlling high blood pressure can reduce dementia, Alzheimer’s risk (December 5, 2019). National Institute on Aging. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/further-evidence-controlling-high-blood-pressure-can-reduce-dementia-alzheimers-risk

Ding J, et al. Antihypertensive medications and risk for incident dementia and Alzheimer’s disease: a meta-analysis of individual participant data from prospective cohort studiesLancet Neurology. 2019;pii: S1474-4422(19)30393-X. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(19)30393-X.

People Who Are at Higher Risk for Severe Illness. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-at-higher-risk.html

Livingston, G., Sommerlad, A., Orgeta, V., Costafreda, S. G., Huntley, J., Ames, D., … & Cooper, C. (2017). Dementia prevention, intervention, and care. The Lancet, 390(10113), 2673-2734. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)31363-6/fulltext#seccestitle70

May is High Blood Pressure Education Month (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/hbp_education_month.htm

Smoking and dementia. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Society.  Retrieved from https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/risk-factors-and-prevention/smoking-and-dementia