Written by Bukola Adebayo
Uncontrolled high blood pressure, commonly known as hypertension, has been said to kill in at least eight different ways.
They include stroke, diabetes, kidney failure, heart attack, aneurysms, end-stage liver failure, coronary heart diseases and sudden death.
Emeritus Prof. of medicine, Oladipo Akinkugbe, describes high blood pressure as a condition that occurs when there is excessive pressure on the walls of the artery and adds that this causes damage to the blood vessels, as well as vital organs in the body when it is not controlled.
Hypertension is also a major health concern for Africans.
In Nigeria, about 57 million people are estimated to be hypertensive with many still undiagnosed.Akinkugbe says this high incidence of hypertension is a major reason why many die suddenly from heart attack and stroke.
High blood pressure is preventable and it is also manageable, so you need not die from it if you make efforts to control it.
According to Akinkugbe, one can live over three decades with hypertension without developing complications associated with the condition, if detected early and managed properly.
He adds, "I have patients I diagnosed with high blood pressure 30 years ago that are still alive today, because they managed it by taking prescribed drugs and making lifestyle changes.
"Research has proven that salt intake is a reason why most Africans have hypertension. Hypertension only kills when you ignore it."
If you have already been told that you have high blood pressure, then your doctor must have prescribed some drugs to help you control it.
While medication can lower the condition, it may cause side effects such as leg cramps, dizziness, and lack of sleep. Luckily, most people can bring down their blood pressure naturally .Your lifestyle plays an important role in treating your high blood pressure, according to experts on mayoclinic.com.
They say if one can successfully control one's blood pressure by living well, then one can delay or reduce the need for medication. Here are lifestyle changes to make if you are ready to lower your blood pressure and keep it down for life!
Watch your waistline
Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Losing just 10 pounds (4.5 kilogrammes) can help reduce your blood pressure. In general, the more weight you lose, the lower your blood pressure.
Losing weight also makes any blood pressure medications you're taking more effective. You and your doctor can determine your target weight and the best way to achieve it.
Besides shedding pounds, you should also keep an eye on your waistline. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high blood pressure. In general, men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (102 centimetres).
Women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (89 cm).
Regular physical activity - at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week - can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg).
And it doesn't take long to see a difference. If you haven't been active, increasing your exercise level can lower your blood pressure within just a few weeks. If you have pre-hypertension - systolic pressure between 120 and 139 or diastolic pressure between 80 and 89 - exercise can help you avoid developing full-blown hypertension.
If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels. Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise programme.
Your doctor can help determine whether you need any exercise restrictions. Even moderate activity for 10 minutes at a time, such as walking and light strength training, can help. But avoid being a "weekend warrior." Trying to squeeze all your exercise in on the weekends to make up for weekday inactivity isn't a good strategy. Those sudden bursts of activity could actually be risky.
Eat a healthy diet
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet.
It isn't easy to change eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet: Reduce salt in your diet. If you are an African, you need to reduce your salt intake. Even a small reduction in the salt in your diet can reduce blood pressure by 2 to 8 mm Hg.
To decrease salt intake, track how much salt is in your diet. Keep a food diary to estimate how much salt is in what you eat and drink each day and avoid eating processed foods as much as you can, because they are preserved with salt.
Also do not add raw salt to your food. Potato chips, frozen dinners, bacon and processed lunch meats are high in sodium. You can ease into this change by cutting back gradually till your taste buds have adjusted to it.
Cut down on alcohol
Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. In small amounts, it can potentially lower your blood pressure by 2 to 4 mm Hg. But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much of it - generally more than one drink a day for women and men older than age 65, or more than two a day for men age 65 and younger.
Also, if you don't normally drink alcohol, you shouldn't start drinking it as a way to lower your blood pressure. There's more potential harm than benefit to drinking alcohol. If you drink more than moderate amounts of it, alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of high blood pressure medications.
N.B, if you do not know your blood pressure level, please get tested today.