There is a new set of treatment guidelines — the first since 1993 — that has been released identifying more people with hypertension. According to the American Heart Association an upper number of 130 or a lower number of 80 raises a red flag, especially in the African-American community.
This change adds millions more to the numbers of Americans who will require treatment for high blood pressure. Rather than immediately reaching for a prescription pad, however, medical professionals should address lifestyle changes with their patients first. Recommendations should include:
- Smoking cessation
- Regular exercise
- Stress reduction
- Healthy diet
By the last, I am not referring to a low-fat plan, but a sugar-free, low-carbohydrate diet instead. One pathway to high blood pressure is high insulin levels, which occur in people who consume too many sugars and starches.
Among the side effects of having high insulin levels are sodium retention, water retention, and high blood pressure. One of the most important strategies for managing blood pressure is weight loss. High blood pressure is associated with increasing body fat, especially belly fat. This can be addressed by weight loss — especially with a low-carbohydrate diet — and, as an added bonus, people can decrease their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Why is controlling blood pressure of such vital importance? Over time, hypertension increases the risks for a number of health conditions, including:
- Heart attack
- Congestive heart failure
- End-stage renal disease (in severe cases)
If people begin treating the warning signs of early high blood pressure now with lifestyle changes — especially dietary ones — they can help themselves avoid a future filled with prescription medications.