12 ways to beat back hypertension

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Beating back high blood pressure

How many adult riders have high blood pressure? A lot!

As motorcyclists, we enjoy our fair share of meals on the road. Unless you’re digging in deep and figuring out where the healthier restaurants are, you’re getting more salt than a body needs eating at greasy spoons, roadside diners and fast food outlets. If you get just as much salt in your diet at home, eating this way often may be causing you hypertension, aka high blood pressure.

You’re not alone. To date 87 million Americans have high blood pressure. That’s half of all adults in the country. Ultimately it can lead to heart conditions and stroke. Now you wonder why the cost of health care in America is so high? This is just one of the factors. Look around you and realize every other adult you see probably has high blood pressure.

But most people can get it under control.

The target blood pressure for humans is 120 over 80. The top number is called the systolic blood pressure, and the bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure. High blood pressure is when you see levels at or above 140/90. In between 120 and 140 is called pre-hypertension. Many adults who wind up here continue higher into dangerous territory.

Here are a few things you can do to get your blood pressure under control.

1. Get a cuff – If your doctor has diagnosed you with high blood pressure, pop into the local pharmacy or go online and buy yourself a blood pressure monitor from a know brand. This will allow you to check your blood pressure as often as you like to follow your progress, downward hopefully. And we say ‘known brand’ because you want near-accurate readings.

2. 30-60 cardio 6 to 7 times a week – If you have high blood pressure, you need to do more cardio than the recommended 3 times a week for 30 minutes. Up your game to 6-7 times a week for 60 minutes. No gym membership is required here. You can clean the house, work on your bike, wash the car, walk the neighborhood (walk up lots of hills), walk the dog, jog, go hiking, help a friend move, etc. There are other benefits to this routine. You’ll amp up the oxygen levels in your blood which is a good thing for your body. And, there’s only one way the body loses weight – by turning calories to carbon dioxide and expelling them when you breathe.

3. Stay hydrated – Keep your body hydrated. The more you pee, the lower your sodium level goes. Make a point of stopping by the kitchen and drinking an 8-ounce glass of water every time before you hit the restroom to pee.

4. Clean up your diet – It starts at home. Spend an hour in your kitchen dumping all the processed foods in your pantry, fridge and freezer. Boxed cereal, white bread, frozen meals, cookies, high sodium canned goods and sauces, granola bars and so on. Processed foods are where the high salt content is, so eliminating them will do you a world of good. Instead, teach yourself how to make your own simple salad dressing, yogurt parfaits, protein shakes and add more clean spices and balsamics to your food for real flavor without the sodium punch.

5. Salt Substitute – Most Americans get too much salt and not enough potassium. Good news here. There are salt substitutes on the market that are made using Potassium chloride. Few people can tell that difference when used on most foods and in most recipes. Look for the brands ‘NuSalt’ and 'Salt Substitute’ next to the salt at better grocery stores.

6. Switch up your snacks – Most packaged snacks are processed and loaded with salt. There are a lot of foods you can eat instead that will more than satiate your hunger while adding health benefits to your diet. Nuts, particularly almonds; organic 70% cacao or higher chocolate; and many whole fruits.

7. 2 meals in, one meal out – It’s not easy to clean up your diet when you’re eating out. When you’re not traveling, have a goal of eating at least two meals at home before taking a meal out.

8. Stop smoking – Smoking is also a cause of hypertension along with a host of other ailments. If you’re a smoker, you know the list and it is long. You’re gonna need all the lung power you can get for those 60-minute cardios so quit now.

9. Reduce your intake of caffeine – Too much caffeine also elevates blood pressure. While science tells us a shot or two a day is ok, beyond that and up you go.

10. Back off your drinking – If you enjoy more than a few drinks a day, you won’t find it easy to lower your BP, unless you lower your intake of alcohol.

11. Unwind with the 4-7-8 – Some of us are just naturally high strung. That makes it hard to really relax when we need to. If you’re having trouble getting to sleep at night, or unwinding after the 5 o’clock whistle blows, breathe in deep for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 and expel it slowly over 8 seconds. Repeat a few times.

12. Consider a BP med for the short term – There are several medications on the market used to control high blood pressure. Some of these meds aren’t good for other parts of your body. If you’re over the 140 mark and your doctor recommends a prescription, do it short term, then use steps 1-9 to try and lower your BP together with the med. The goal being that over time (a few months, a few years) you’ll be able to get off the med and take control of the situation yourself. Using your cuff, you can follow your progress. If you’re nearing the 120 target, talk to your doctor about lowering your dosage or eliminating the pills all together.

Patrick Thomas/April 2018

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