Hypertension, often referred to as high blood pressure, can affect the body in many ways and is often referred to as the silent killer because it can lead to an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, or other serious diseases without necessarily alerting you to a problem. There are an estimated 7.4 million Canadians living with this condition, meaning they have a ‘systolic’ score (The maximum arterial blood pressure, when the heart muscle contracts) of 140 mm Hg or higher or a ‘diastolic’ score (The minimum arterial pressure, when the heart muscle relaxes between beats) of 90 mm Hg or more.
Below are a few strategies you can take to reduce your risk of high blood pressure or manage an already existing condition. Talk to your doctor about what strategies are right for you.
Reduce your sodium intake
Salt is a major source of dietary sodium and consuming too much sodium increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, and in particular, high blood pressure. According to Canadian guidelines, older adults 51-70 years old should consume 1300 mg of sodium daily, and older adults over 70 should consume 1200 mg. This amounts to roughly one-quarter of a teaspoon. Low-sodium salt substitutes can be used as an alternative.
Try fish-oil supplements
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon and mackerel are known to promote heart health. Research has shown that fish-oil supplements can help reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.
Consume a healthy diet and regularly exercise
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can decrease risk factors for chronic disease and may be most effective when performed at least three times a week for more than 12 weeks. HIIT can help improve diastolic and systolic blood pressure in people living with overweight or obesity. Consuming a healthy diet that is full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil has also been shown to improve blood pressure levels.
Drugs that lower blood pressure help prevent heart attack and strokes and offer the greatest benefit to those at higher risk of heart disease. Experts believe treatment decisions should be based on individuals’ risk level, rather than on blood pressure scores alone. Talk to your doctor about your blood pressure levels and whether you should take medication.
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