Hypertension effects as many as 67 million American adults, about 31 percent, and it costs the country $47.5 billion a year, which includes medication, health services, and required missed days of work, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Risk factors of hypertension include obesity, tobacco use, family history, stress, hormonal disorders, low potassium intake, and high sodium intake. The large number of hypertension sufferers and cost can be reduced with simple changes in daily habits that does not require medication or much medical interventions.
One such way is to lower the sodium intake, which is normally obtained from table salt. In a study published in the May 2012 issue of the American Journal of Medicine, researchers concluded that reducing salt intake can reduce systolic blood pressure by 4 to 8 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). High salt intake also increases the risk of stroke, proteinuria, and left ventricular hypertrophy. However, there seems to be hardly any risk with salt intake reduction, according to the research, unless it is reduced severely. Cutting back on salty foods, such as potato chips, canned and preserved foods, and bottled sauces, can be cost-saving mediators to cut the risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.
The American Society of Hypertension (ASH) reported in the March-April 2010 issue of Journal of the American Society of Hypertension that making positive dietary changes significantly reduce the risks of getting high blood pressure. Those who are in stage I hypertension should make small dietary changes first, such as eating from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, before using any required medications. Those who already on drug therapy, adopting a more active lifestyle can further decrease blood pressure.
Exercise also plays a major contributor to lower high blood pressure. Even though all types and intensities of exercise has been shown to decrease the risks of hypertension, one study showed that high-intensity exercise can be more beneficial than steady-pace moderate aerobics. Emmanuel Gomes Ciolac, Ph.D., an assistant professor of São Paulo State University in Brazil, performed a study comparing groups of people with hypertension doing either high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or continuous moderate training (CMT). HIIT is performed by doing one to four minutes of high-intensity exercise with periods of rest in between sets. CMT is considered performing any exercise for about 30 continuous minutes with no rest. The HIIT group had a superior reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure than the CMT group. This sharp drop, however, is only acute. When both groups were compared for long-term effects of either types of exercise, Ciolac found that both groups had a relatively equal level of improvements in blood pressure health. Therefore, it is possible that not everyone need to perform HIIT in order to reduce high blood pressure.
Hypertension medication may be required by some people who are at major risk, but no amount of drug therapy can substitute the positive long-term effects of a more nutritious diet and regular physical activity. Substituting french fries and ice cream with fresh colorful fruits and a cup of yogurt can be a much more economical treatment than waiting in line at a pharmacy and popping a couple of pills.
By Nick Ng