The silent killer, it's often called. High blood pressure has no signs or symptoms. Its presence often goes unnoticed until the sudden onset of a stroke or heart attack. What can you do to protect yourself from the devastating effects of high blood pressure? Blood pressure, also known as hypertension, increases as we age. In fact, half of all Americans over age 60 have high blood pressure. Ideally, your blood pressure should be 120/80. You should do something to lower your blood pressure if it is 140/90 or higher. If you have diabetes, 130/85 is a good reading to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
What can you do? The best thing to do is to prevent high blood pressure. Studies have shown that our diet does affect our blood pressure. diet low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol, and rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods has been found to lower blood pressure in people who have hypertension. The diet, called the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet, is rich in magnesium, potassium and calcium.
It's similar to the Food Guide Pyramid, which recommends lean meats and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. It also recommends 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day and 4-5 servings a week of nuts, seeds, and dry beans. The high levels of magnesium, potassium, and calcium are thought to contribute to the beneficial effect on blood pressure.
At first, you're going to say you couldn't possible eat8-10 servings of fruit and vegetables each day! Well, give it a try! Try to eat two servings each meal plus a fruit for one snack and a vegetable for another snack. An example for breakfast might include one small banana and 6 ounces of orange juice along with a bowl of whole grain cereal and skim milk to give you two servings of fruit. A small apple and a cup of salad greens would give you two servings of fruits/vegetables for lunch.
It's not as difficult as it sounds at first. Try to gradually increase your intake of fruits and vegetables to get your body used to the increased fiber. We know we get a lot of benefits from fruits and vegetables. We're only beginning to understand what all these benefits are. That's why supplements are not a good substitution for whole fruits and vegetables.
In addition to eating healthier foods, try making some other lifestyle changes to help prevent high blood pressure. Weight loss, if you're overweight, can lower blood pressure. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day, like walking, housework, gardening, or swimming.
Eating foods with less sodium can lower the blood pressure in people who are salt-sensitive. Be sure to limit alcohol intake. Take high blood pressure pills if your doctor prescribes them.