Recently the guidelines for diagnosing high blood pressure has been changed! It used to be a blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg, and it has been decreased to 130/80 mmHg. This means that a larger part of our Country will be diagnosed with hypertension. I decided to write this post because there are lots of questions you guys might have but don’t actually know you have them yet. If that makes any sense. High Blood Pressure Hypertension
Are there any symptoms?
Many patients say, “I feel fine” why do I have to lower my salt intake? Why do I have to exercise? Why do I have to take this medication? So they stop. This is dangerous!
High blood pressure is also called the Silent Killer precisely because you feel fine—
until you’re not. What does that even mean? No symptoms and then one day you have a massive heart attack and unfortunately you don’t survive it.
So what do you need to know about high blood pressure?
Risk factors— what will make your blood pressure high?
Protective factors— what will help lower your blood pressure?
These include the following:
- Cigarette use
- Alcohol use
What you should know about Diet:
Salt is NOT GOOD especially in excess! Yeah yeah we’ve all heard that before…
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended a daily intake of salt of <5g per day. Currently, people around the world consume on average about 9-12g per day. In the US the average American consumes >3.4g per day The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that Americans consume <2.3g per day.
We are Definitely Eating way too much Salt!
The CDC listed 10 foods that make up >40% of our sodium/salt intake:
- Breads and rolls
- Cold cuts and cured meats such as deli or packaged ham or turkey
- Fresh and processed poultry
- Sandwiches such as cheeseburgers
- Pasta dishes (not including macaroni and cheese)
- Meat-mixed dishes such as meat loaf with tomato sauce
- Snacks such as chips, pretzels, and popcorn
*The above list is copy pasted directly from the CDC website on salt reduction*
Why is a diet high in salt so bad for you?
Your kidneys play a key role in your blood pressure as they respond to the amount of salt in your blood. If it’s a bit higher than usual, your kidneys can filter it out and there’s no issue. The problem is when there is too much salt, more salt than your kidneys can filter out. But why is this a problem?
Salt causes water retention. So the more salt in your diet, the less your kidneys can flush it out in your pee, and the more water you start to retain.. this raises your blood pressure. Think of blood as the cars on a high way. Your arteries are the high way. More cars = congestion, means blood will move slow. Your heart would need to shove that blood to the rest of your body a lot harder than it normally would have to.
Higher blood pressure on occasion is not bad. But your heart is a muscle! Think about it as your bicep. The more weight you lift.. the bigger the bicep will get. Bigger muscles need more blood, because muscles need oxygen to have strength and be able to work perfectly.
The issue with your heart is that once the heart is working so hard to pump blood, it will need much more oxygen than it is getting, and a part of your heart will not
receive the needed amount of blood or oxygen. It will get damaged or even die. This is what a heart attack is its called an ischemic (no oxygen) event, or infarction.
Okay fine.. salt is bad. “but I only add a little to my meals, I don’t see the harm”. Let me show you some numbers so you get an idea, I did all these calculations myself so by all means try it out yourself or ask your doctors or nutritionists. No need to take my word for it 😉 I want you to ask questions!
Say I wake up in the morning and decide to have scrambled eggs using butter, a loaf of bread, slice of cheese and a cup of coffee with milk. Great breakfast right, not overeating and it’s just what I need?
Lets look at how much salt I just had: and this is from the National Institute of Health (NIH).
1 piece of Cheese (28g)= 112mg of salt
1 slice of Bread (50g) = 125mg of salt
1 Egg (57g)= 45.6mg
1 tsp of Butter (4.73g) = 23.65mg of salt
1.6 oz milk (1g) = .5mg of salt
1 tsp Salt to add on top of the egg (5g) = 1900mg of salt
Total salt in my breakfast:
2206mg = 2.206 g of salt.
That is already almost half of the recommended salt intake by the WHO, and nearly my recommended daily consumption by the CDC… and it was only 1 meal!!!!
You can see why adding salt to anything is bad. Every food item already has salt in it!!! Adding extra salt is a health risk. Just 1 tsp of salt on food is equivalent to almost 2g of the daily requirement.
So definitely consider lowering the amount of salt you add, how much butter you use, replace butter with olive oil or sesame oil because they have 0 mg of salt!!!
Canned foods are also very high in salt to allow the food to last in your pantry! So try your best to make things from scratch! These include soups, canned corn, canned peas, and canned beans to name a few. Anything in a box, anything in a can should immediately make you look at the label and look at how much salt is in there.
My brother in law has high blood pressure, his doctor advised him to consume items that have ≤3% sodium on the label. Not sure how exact this is, or accurate but ask your own docs!
Why should I exercise?
How can that possibly lower my blood pressure? Studies have shown that those who exercise have a much lower risk of developing high blood pressure.
What if you already have it?
Exercise can help decrease your blood pressure!
Again, lets think of your heart as a muscle. Lets say it’s your bicep. Let’s say you have never lifted weights—ever. Then, you go to the gym one day and try to lift a 10lbs dumb bell. You will break a sweat, you will work really really hard to lift those 10lbs with your bicep, and maybe you can do it, but maybe your bicep just gives up and you drop the weight. But if you regularly go to the gym, and work that muscle, when you do pick up those 10lbs, it won’t require so much power or effort. It will be easier and your muscle won’t give up on you.
Your heart is the same way. If you exercise regularly, you will be able to send your body the same amount of blood without as much effort, because your heart is strong. Don’t confuse this with long-term high blood pressure making your heart big. There is a difference between big heart and strong heart.
Have you ever heard of the not so buff but still fit guy that can lift more than the big buff guy? Well, same applies here. Big heart is not good.. strong heart is! Exercise gives you a strong heart!
In fact, studies show that regular exercise can lower your systolic (the top number) blood pressure by 5-8 mmHg. For example, if you normally run at 136 systolic and start exercising, you can get to 128mmHg. That just changed your diagnosis from Hypertensive, to: you’re healthy! No diagnosis here. This can be done without any medications!
Oh, small piece of info here… if you are diagnosed with high blood pressure and take medications which normalize it, meaning it brings it down to normal levels, it does not mean you are no longer a hypertensive patient (person with high blood pressure). You still hold that diagnosis! I encountered this a few times in the hospital setting. I would ask a patient if they had any chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure, or high cholesterol or diabetes. They would say no. Then, I would ask, what medications do you take, and they start naming a bunch of blood pressure medications. So I would tell them, and they would reply “well its normal now so no I don’t have high blood pressure anymore”.
Communication is key guys! Why do you think docs always ask a long list of questions!! Exhibit A 😉
Okay, sorry for the small tangent!
I won’t name them all because there are way to many. There are water pills, pills that dilate your arteries, pills that help your heart pump better, pills that interact with hormones that would normally raise your body’s salt etc.
So no, no names here.. But I will say this. It is so important to take the medications the way they are prescribed. If there are any complaints, tell your doctors!
“Whenever I take it I feel dizzy or lightheaded, so I take half”.
I would say this. Make an appointment, or call the office and try to speak to your doc. Tell them and ask them what to do. Odds are, they may change the time you take the medication. Never alter what you take, or change how much you take yourself without telling your doc first. Continue taking it as prescribed until told otherwise by your doc.
Also, a lot of times these meds might make you feel weird or odd at first. It’s normal. A lot of patients feel that way, and its also a reason why many stop taking the medication without telling their docs. The weird feeling will pass. Ask your doctors what you might feel, what you should do if you feel that way. Ask those questions before you start any medication so that once you experience a weird side effect, you already know what to do or you might feel okay about it since you were expecting it.
What else should you do?
Stop smoking! Immediately!
What else can you do?
Do not binge drink! If you are a regular drinker, Lower your alcohol intake. Alcohol can increase your blood pressure.
Although research now shows that MODERATE alcohol is good for all cause mortality, its important to discuss what is too much with your doctors! I talk about it on my youtube channel in case you’re interested in checking that out.
Find a way to relax. Take a nice bath, meditate, do some yoga (you exercise and meditate all at the same time). With the new guidelines of diagnosing high blood pressure changing from 140 to 130mmHg, more people will be diagnosed with it. It is so important that you inform yourselves more about this issue.
A few things to know:
Don’t take Viagra if you are taking nitrates (which is a high blood pressure medication). Always ask your doctors if you have high blood pressure, are taking medications and would like to take Viagra.
The interaction of Viagra and certain meds can cause a significant drop in your blood pressure and this is something you do not want either.
High blood pressure is affected by a multitude of things. Many are behavioral and can be managed by simply adopting a healthier lifestyle and making healthier choices. Sometimes, this is no longer enough, and medications must be used. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I used to love patients that had so many questions because it meant they truly wanted to make a change in their lives, and that they took their health seriously and saw it as a priority. So definitely don’t be afraid to get more involved and more informed.
Lastly, ask yourself this question:
“If I had known then, what I know now, would I have done things to prevent it like change my lifestyle? Eat healthy? Exercise more? Taken the medications I was given the way they were prescribed?”
if you answer yes to this question then that’s a huge step in the right direction!