February is American Heart Month. I’m excited to have my blogger friend Farrah here today to share her wisdom on preventing high blood pressure!
Hi everyone, I’m Farrah, a food, fitness, & healthy living blogger over at fairyburger, and I’m super excited to be here today! :] (Thanks, Emily!)! I’m currently a third-year medical student working on my clinical rotations out in the Kentucky/West Virginia/Ohio area, and my current plan is to go into Family Medicine, with a possible subspecialty in Sports Medicine. In the copious amounts of spare time that I have (hah) while I’m not in the hospital/clinic, I like lifting weights, dancing, making and eating food, and volunteering at no-kill animal shelters.
February is “American Heart Month,” and since I’m big on preventative care, I wanted to do my part by discussing one of the most prevalent conditions seen in patients at office visits! It’s also the most common reason for use of prescription drugs!
My first post on Hypertension was more of a discussion on the diagnosis, risk factors, and screening involved with elevated blood pressure. (To recap, hypertension is considered to be present when a patient has a blood pressure of >140/>90 at 2+ separate office readings after an initial screen.)
Today’s post will be focused on prevention (e.g. how to combat the modifiable risk factors associated with hypertension)!
Modifiable Risk Factors
- High-sodium diet: Excess sodium intake (> 3000mg/day) increases the risk for hypertension, whereas sodium restriction lowers blood pressure.
- Alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol intake is associated with the development of hypertension.
- Physical inactivity: A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk for hypertension, whereas exercise is an effective means of lowering blood pressure.
- Diabetes/Dyslipidemia: The presence of other cardiovascular risk factors, including diabetes and dyslipidemia, are associated with an increased risk in the development of hypertension.
- Hypovitaminosis D: Vitamin D deficiency appears to be associated with an increased risk in developing hypertension.
So what can be done to prevent high blood pressure?
There are a number of lifestyle modifications that can be implemented alone, or in conjunction with drug therapy:
Dietary Salt Restriction
- Lowers blood pressure in individuals with high + borderline-high blood pressure
- Helps to prevent the collection of fluid in the abdomen and/or lower extremities.
- May also enhance effectiveness of medications and other non-drug treatments (e.g. weight loss)
- Associated with reduced risk of stroke, kidney stones + osteoporosis
- Associated with reversal of heart enlargement
- Adopting a healthier diet and eating less overall, in conjunction with exercise, will generally help a patient to lose weight, which will help to decrease blood pressure.
DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
- High in veggies, fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish + nuts
- High in potassium, magnesium, calcium, protein + fiber
- Recommended amount of dietary fiber is 20-35g/day
- Low in sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages + red meats
- Low saturated fat, total fat + cholesterol
- Vegetarian / Vegan
- Beans, seeds + nuts are all part of the DASH diet, and meat substitutions can be made using any protein-rich non-animal product.
- Lactose Intolerance / Dairy Allergies
- Use substitutions that have the same amount of calcium + vitamin D as the original foods
- Celiac Disease/ Gluten Intolerance
- Substitute any non-gluten-containing grains for wheat-based foods
- Aerobic exercise, and possibly resistance training, can decrease blood pressure, independent of weight loss.
- Demonstrated to result in improved blood pressure control
|Modification||Recommendation||Approximate systolic BP reduction (range)|
|Weight reduction||Maintain normal body weight (BMI of 18.5-24.9)||5-20 mmHg per 10 kg weight loss|
|Adopt DASH eating plan||Consume a diet rich in fruits, veggies + low-fat dairy products with reduced saturated + total fat||8-14 mmHg|
|Dietary sodium restriction||Reduce dietary sodium intake to < 100 meq/day (2.4g sodium or 6g sodium chloride)||2-8 mmHg|
|Physical activity||Engage in regular aerobic physical activity (e.g. brisk walking) for > 30 minutes/day, most days of the week||4-9 mmHg|
|Moderation of alcohol consumption||Limit consumption to < 2 drinks/day in most men and < 1 drink/day in women + lighter-weight persons||2-4 mmHg|
If you have any questions about medical school, topics you’d like me to cover either on Medical Mondays on your blog, feel free to email me at fairyburger (at) gmail (dot) com! While I realize my posting frequency may sometimes make it seem like I’m not actually in medical school, I assure you that I really am. That being said, I do try to respond to emails as soon as I can! :]
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Thank you again for having me here, Emily! :] Looking forward chatting with your readers!