About 1 out of 3 adults in the United States has high blood pressure. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is called the “silent killer” because it doesn’t usually cause symptoms while it’s causing damage. If the pressure is persistently elevated, many problems will occur in your body.
The normal range in blood pressure is 100-140 mm of mercury systolic, when the left ventricle is most contracted, over 60-90 mm of mercury diastolic when the left ventricle is most relaxed. If your blood pressure is persistently over 140/90 for an adult, you may have hypertension. Most cases of hypertension happen without any known specific cause such as kidney disease or elevated cortisol levels.
However, there are many known things that can contribute to high blood pressure including: chronic alcohol abuse; thyroid problems; illegal drug use; certain medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs; plus congenital defects caused by bad genetics.
Damage to you body from hypertension can include: damage to your arteries, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and reduced life expectancy.
When the systolic pressure is consistently above 170, prescription meds may be necessary. However, if you are in the early stages of hypertension, there are a lot of things that you can do to help prevent the condition from worsening and even to reduce your blood pressure:
More than 70% of the control that we have over blood pressure can be accomplished through diet and exercise:
- For every 20 lbs of weight loss, expect to decrease systolic pressure by 5-20 mm
- Maintain a good intake of calcium and magnesium
- Minimize or eliminate alcohol intake
- Stop smoking
- Exercise 30 minutes/day (vigorously, not mall-walking)
- Increase dietary potassium, reduce sodium
- Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products
- Eat a more Mediterranean Diet with lots of Olive Oil
- Eat more fish and fish oils
- If none of these things happen to be readily available, then go swim for a while with the fish. You would be surprised what an hour or two underwater with an ocean filled with fish can do for relaxation and blood pressure.