By Princess Gabbara, blackdoctors.org
In the Black community, high blood pressure (HBP), also known as hypertension, is a common health condition to say the least. In fact, more than 40 percent of African Americans have HBP, according to the American Heart Association. Whether it’s a close relative or friend, if you’re African American, there’s a good chance that you know someone with HBP. Unfortunately, it’s considered the norm, but it doesn’t have to be that way at all.
Higher rates of obesity and diabetes and plain ole genetics put African Americans at a higher risk for HBP. Not to be taken lightly, HBP that’s left untreated can lead to a stroke. If you take medication to help control your blood pressure, then by all means, continue following your doctor’s orders, but perhaps – just perhaps – the best medicine is a new, healthy lifestyle. The following suggestions can not only lower your blood pressure but reduce your need for medication. Keep reading to find out what they are.
- Lose weight.
Only do so if you’re overweight or obese. Need some convincing? Essentially, the more weight you lose, the better your blood pressure. Also, if you’re already taking medication(s) to treat your HBP, losing weight will help make those medications more effective.
- Exercise often.
We all know how chaotic life can be at times, but it’s important to squeeze in at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day or every other day. Exercising regularly can lower your blood pressure as much as 4-9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
- Change your diet.
This means avoiding salty foods, including potato chips, French fries, pretzels, lunch meat and pasta sauce. Boosting your potassium intake and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg.
- Reduce stress.
Don’t neglect yourself. It’s important to take a little time to relax and unwind by participating in activities that you truly enjoy, whether it’s jogging, power walking, reading, listening to music or going to the movies. And whatever it is that seems to trigger stress in your life, figure out a way to eliminate or avoid those triggers as much as you possibly can. You might find it helpful to learn a few stress management techniques for when the going gets tough.
- Eat more dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate seems to be the food that keeps on giving. Not only does it boost your energy and reduce inflammation, but did you know that just one small square a day can lower your blood pressure? This is due to the fact that dark chocolate is rich in antioxidant flavonoids. Now, that’s sweet!
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
We’re not saying that you have to completely swear off drinking because after all, what is a good party, vacay or get-together with friends without an ice, cold piña colada? Try to keep your alcohol consumption to no more than one glass per day.
As for smoking, besides lung cancer, COPD, heart disease, infertility and the other dangers of smoking, tobacco products can raise your blood pressure. Although difficult at first, quitting certainly has its health benefits and pays off in the long run.
- Cut back on caffeine.
Let’s be honest: We’ve all been guilty of turning to a cup of Joe in the morning to help us feel more awake and come to terms with the day, but too much caffeine is known to cause spikes in your blood pressure; however, at this point, it’s still unknown whether the spike is temporary or long-lasting. Whenever possible, opt for decaf.