Hypertension is said to be a silent killer. It does not present with any warning signs but gradually increases your risk of conditions like stroke and heart attack.
As you grow older, your risk of developing hypertension gradually increases since older age weakens blood vessels. Experts at the American Heart Association (AHA) suggest that managing seven risk factors can help improve cardiovascular health and lower your chances of developing hypertension as you age.
Here’s what these risk factors are and how you can improve them.
1. Obesity: Being overweight puts pressure on your heart and blood vessels, increasing your risk of cardiovascular diseases. If your BMI is over 25 or waist circumference over 35 inches (for women) or 40 inches (for men) you may be overweight. A healthy diet and physical exercise can promote weight loss. You can also try creating a calorie deficit by burning more calories than you consume. Talk to a nutritionist to know more about ideal calorie intake.
2. High blood pressure: If you don’t have hypertension early in life, you can reduce your risk of strokes and heart attacks by maintaining cardiovascular health. A proper work out regime, DASH diet, reducing stress and getting enough sleep can help improve blood pressure.
3. Sedentary lifestyle: If you don’t do much physical activity, it would eventually reflect on your health, especially your cardiovascular system. A sedentary lifestyle puts you at risk of all chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Experts suggest including at least 150 minutes of cardio into your weekly routine can keep your heart healthy. Walking, skipping, cycling and dancing are some forms of cardio.
4. Unhealthy diet: If you tend to eat a lot of processed foods or foods high in saturated or trans fats, you may be at risk of cardiovascular diseases like hypertension. Try and cook your food in healthy oils like olive oil, avoid packed foods when you can and always read labels to check the ingredients. A home-cooked meal with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits is a much healthier option and helps you control your calories. If you are overweight, you can also try portion control to help with weight loss.
5. Cholesterol: Our body needs some amount of cholesterol for its proper functioning, but excessive cholesterol deposits inside blood vessels lead to a condition called atherosclerosis. It narrows arteries and leads to high blood pressure. So, it is important to control your body’s cholesterol levels. Get a cholesterol test regularly and if the levels spike, get in touch with a nutritionist. Quitting junk food and high-fat food and working out more may help.
6. High blood sugar levels: If you have diabetes, there is a high chance that you will eventually develop hypertension as high blood sugar slowly damages blood vessels. Diabetic people should talk to their doctor about reducing the risk of hypertension.
7. Smoking: Smoking leads to a temporary increase in blood pressure and damages blood vessels in the long run. It also has several other side effects including a higher risk of COPD, heart disease and diabetes. If you wish to quit, do not hesitate to ask for help from friends and family members and have realistic expectations about your progress.
For more information, read our article on Hypertension.
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