Monday Medical: Blueberries, sunshine and marriage
Eat a cup of blueberries, spend some time in the sunshine and get married. Sounds simple enough, but why? Recent studies suggest that each of these lifestyle changes can positively affect blood pressure in certain populations.
If you are thinking of reaching for that extra cup of blueberries to try to reduce your blood pressure, you are not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one-third of American adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.
Symptoms don’t often make themselves known, so the only actual sign is the blood pressure reading itself. A reading of 140 or higher on the top, called the systolic pressure, and 90 or higher on the bottom, called the diastolic pressure, is categorized as high blood pressure.
Lisa Bankard, health and wellness manager for Yampa Valley Medical Center, has seen more than her fair share of blood pressure readings. She has been taking blood pressures at health fairs for more than 15 years and as you can imagine, has answered many questions about high readings.
“If this is their first elevated reading, I tell people to keep an eye on it and try again,” Bankard said, “Try a different time of day or day of the week. Think about what’s been going on in your life. Sleep, stress, illness. When you start seeing elevated readings the second or third time, that’s feedback. Get it checked.”
Treatment of high blood pressure most often is accomplished with medication. Yet some are able to successfully control their hypertension with lifestyle modifications. Rather than rushing into a marriage proposal or taking up sunbathing (which carries its own risks) like recent studies suggest, try out these proven approaches to getting your numbers down and keeping them down.
• Lose weight. Easier said than done, right? But just a 10 pound reduction in body weight can help. Talk to your doctor about a good target weight for you.
• Watch your waistline. This is not your pant size. Your waist circumference is measured at your natural waist, just above your belly button. In general, men are at greater risk for high blood pressure if their measurement is greater than 40 inches, for women it’s 35 inches.
• Get moving. No surprises here. Regular physical activity can produce positive changes in just weeks. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. The key here is regular, no weekend warriors.
• DASH it out. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet emphasizes eating foods rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy while reducing saturated fat and cholesterol.
• Stop shaking. Salt, that is, don’t add it. Just one teaspoon of salt has 2300 milligrams of sodium, the recommended maximum for the entire day if you are trying to reduce your blood pressure. Read labels and keep track of your daily intake.
• Drink in moderation. In small amounts, drinking alcohol can actually lower blood pressure but cross the line and your blood pressure is going in the other direction. Adult women and men over age 65 shouldn’t exceed one drink per day and men aged 65 and younger need to keep it at a two-drink limit.
• Don’t go up in smoke. This is just one more reason to kick the habit. Nicotine raises blood pressure for up to an hour after smoking. This goes for inhaling the smoke of others, too.
Bankard emphasizes the importance of knowing your numbers and what is normal for you.
“It’s difficult to know if your blood pressure is changing without a baseline,” she said.
High blood pressure should not be ignored. Left untreated, hypertension increases your risk for heart disease, stroke and a host of other health problems from your eyes to your kidneys.
Know your numbers and seek help from your doctor if you those numbers start to rise.
This article contains information from the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The American Heart Association and Mayo Clinic.
Heather Rose is the marketing and communications manager for Yampa Valley Medical Center.
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