World Health Day was on Sunday, April 7th.
The theme for 2013 is high blood pressure or hypertension.
What’s blood pressure and how does high blood pressure affect our health?
In a nutshell, blood pressure is the pressure that your blood exerts on the arteries. Our arteries carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. If you were to look in a text book it would say that 120/80 (Systolic/Diastolic) is a normal value and that anything less than this is optimal. As we age our blood pressure tends to increase and if we’re inactive and have a poor diet (e.g. high in sodium & saturated fat), the risk of high blood pressure significantly increases as well. Hypertension has been referred to as a “silent killer” as it could manifest with little to no symptoms at all.
Why is hypertension a concern?
Our body wants to be as efficient and stress free as possible. By having a consistently elevated pressure against the walls of our arteries, we’re increasing the work that needs to be done by, and strain on, the heart while pushing blood throughout the body (e.g. think of pushing a five pound weight around all day vs. a 30 pound weight around all day). In addition, the increased stress on the arteries is known to contribute to plaque formation and can also lead to rupturing of a blood vessel over time (e.g. stroke). The increased strain on the heart and blood vessels are major culprits for increased rates of heart disease, stroke, as well as kidney disease. Did you know that one in three adults worldwide has high blood pressure?
The good news: Hypertension is both preventable and treatable!
In order to reduce your risk for hypertension and to take control of your health if you have high blood pressure it is imperative that you:
- Make physical activity a part of your daily life! Physical activity has been shown to be one of the best ways for individuals to control and prevent high blood pressure. Activities like walking, swimming, nordic pole walking, bike riding, and jogging have been shown to work wonders. For more info on physical activity and hypertension please contact the Physical Activity Line.
- Reduce your sodium intake. HealthyFamilies BC Sodium Sense is a great resource.
- Eat a well balanced diet. Call 8-1-1 for free advice from a registered dietitian and ask about the DASH diet (dietary approach to stop hypertension).
- Avoid the use of tobacco products as they cause havoc to our cardiovascular system. QuitNow is a great and free resource.
- Avoid drinking alcohol in excess. For women nine drinks/week and for men 14 drinks/week are the maximum recommended intakes to decrease risks.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. A 5-10% decrease in body weight can significantly improve an individual's blood pressure
FUN Fact: Research from Osaka, Japan highlightes that every ten minutes of walking to work equated to a 12 percent decreased risk for high blood pressure (Dr. Mike Evans).
I encourage everyone to comment below on how they take action each and every day to improve their cardiovascular health and reduce the complications associated with hypertension in an effort to educate and inspire others in need.
Keep Positive, Keep Smiling, & Keep MOVING.
References & Resources:
World Health Day WHO: Hypertension
HealthLink BC: High Blood Pressure
HealthLink BC: Healthy Lifestyle Actions to Lower Your Blood Pressure