Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a risk factor for heart disease. But what are the risk factors for hypertension? Understanding the causal pathway is intricate. There are many non-controllable, like genetics, age, sex, and race or ethnicity. But there are far more controllable, some that may even reduce the chance of those innate factors making an appearance.

First, what is hypertension? Essentially, it’s when there is too much force (pressure) against the walls of your heart. This is measured by systolic (top number- the pressure during a heart beat) and diastolic (bottom number-the pressure between beats). Diagnostics would yield that anything over 140/90 is hypertension and 180/120 is a crisis. Sometimes, you’ll see a high systolic and normal diastolic or vice versa. Certain health conditions (anemia, diabetes, hyperthyroidism) can cause a high systolic number. Certain lifestyle factors like high salt, obesity, lack of physical activity, alcohol consumption, stress, and certain medications can cause a high diastolic number.

In general, hypertension can be avoided by following these habits:

  1. Well-rounded diet – Let’s face it, we all have an idea of what “healthy” is. Maybe your idea of healthy is balance, maybe it’s completely clean eating, that’s completely fine! What a well-rounded diet includes is:
    • Primarily plants. Whole foods. Fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, whole grain, and lean proteins. If consuming animal sources, choose options that are lower in saturated fat most of the time. What is most of the time, and what is low in saturated fats? Think of it this way, the redder the meat, the more likely it will raise blood pressure. You should try to have these meats only on occasion and in regular portion (4-6 oz once a week). There are far more foods to be mindful of.
  2. Maintaining a healthy weight – Everyone is different. The BMI scale is severely flawed, but understanding what a “healthy weight” is can better be determined by how your blood panels and other vitals are.
  3. Don’t smoke- Yep, even the “fun” stuff can cause HTN. Essentially, if you light it up and put it in your mouth and inhale, you’re increasing your risk. This goes for cigarettes, vapes, cigars, marijuana, and whatever else the kids do these days.
  4. Limit drinking- What does “limit” mean? Ideally, men should have less than 2 drinks per day and women less than 2. But what exactly is a drink? According to the NIH:
    • 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol. So all of IPA, DIPA, and high ABV drinkers, the serving size is smaller. Let’s say you have a beer that is 8%, the serving size would be much less.
    • 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol
    • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol
  5. Stress- The good, the bad, the ugly. Stress management is key in preventing high blood pressure. What are your tactics?
  6. Sleep-  Yep, R&R is for more than just muscle growth. Check out the link between sleep disorders or inadequate sleep. What else can cause poor sleep? Nutrition and lifestyle habits! Woah, did you see how I just closed the loop there?

Essentially, we’re just one big loop and biofeedback system. To find out how to navigate that intricate web, consider reaching out to find out what coaching can offer you.