An alarming one in three American adults has high blood pressure. Known medically as hypertension, many people don’t even know they have it, because high blood pressure has no symptoms or warning signs. But when elevated blood pressure is accompanied by abnormal cholesterol and blood sugar levels, the damage to your arteries, kidneys, and heart accelerates exponentially. Fortunately, high blood pressure is easy to detect and treat. Sometimes people can keep blood pressure in a healthy range simply by making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, increasing activity, and eating more healthfully.
Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is vital for good health. Keeping yours below 120/80 is the ideal goal for dodging a host of afflictions, including heart disease, kidney failure, and, yes, even erectile dysfunction.
But about half of all Americans with high blood pressure (hypertension) have not reached their goals, reports the July 2012 issue of the Harvard Men’s Health Watch.
Many men can improve their health with lifestyle changes such as weight loss, decreasing the salt intake in their diet, and a good dose of daily exercise.
One of the easiest ways to decrease your blood pressure with almost immediate results is to reduce your salt intake. Salt holds more water in the body and increases the work on the heart to pump the extra water load. The medically proven DASH diet keeps sodium to 2,300 milligrams per day (about one teaspoon of salt). Cutting it to 1,500—not easy, but doable—works even better. The DASH diet can lower your systolic pressure (upper number) by 10 points or more. The DASH diet eating plan has been proven to lower blood pressure in studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. In addition to being a low salt (or low sodium) plan, the DASH diet provides additional benefits to reduce blood pressure. It is based on an eating plan rich in fruits and vegetables, and low-fat or non-fat dairy, with whole grains. It is a high fiber, low to moderate fat diet, rich in potasium, calcium, and magnesium.
A second suggestion is to check your blood pressure in your home and not in the doctor’s office. Blood pressure tends to rise a few points when it is taken in the doctor’s office. We even have a name for this slight elevation: white coat hypertension. Checking blood pressure at home with an appropriate device can give you instant feedback on the benefits of diet and exercise and give you a more accurate picture of your blood pressure.
Limit your alcohol intake. Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure. For men, the suggested limit is one to two alcoholic drinks per day, defined as 1.5 ounces (1 shot glass) of 80-proof spirits, a 5-ounce serving of wine, or a 12-ounce serving of beer. (For women it’s no more than one drink a day.)
Take more meds if you need to—but take the right ones. Many people who are already taking one or two hypertension medications ultimately come into control only when taking three or even four medications. But they need to be the right drugs. Your doctor should combine medications that work to lower blood pressure in different ways.
Bottom Line: Blood pressure is a silent killer and can affect more than your heart. This can be controlled with life style changes and when this is ineffective, then medication prescribed by your doctor can help.