High blood pressure, or hypertension, is bad for your health in many ways, and one particularly serious consequence is it can cause an increased risk of stroke.
In addition to stroke, high blood pressure can cause kidney damage, vision loss, memory loss, damage to the heart and more, according to the American Heart Association. When the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries is consistently too high, it leads to hypertension. This can cause damage to your heart as it needs to work harder to pump blood.
Keep blood pressure in a healthy range
Kristene Schulte, a registered dietitian with Marshfield Clinic, said an ideal blood pressure is 120/80, but her goal for adults is to stay under 140/90. It’s important to be mindful of your diet, weight and activity levels to reduce your risk of health complications.
Schulte said there are several things people should do to maintain healthy blood pressure:
- Find healthy ways to reduce stress: Anger and stress can increase blood pressure, so finding ways to relax is important.
- Exercise: Physical activity strengthens your heart and makes it easier to pump blood through your system. Exercise also helps manage stress and weight.
- Eat a low sodium diet: Reduce the salt in your diet, limit processed foods and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Highly processed foods are high in sodium. Read the label on soups, frozen dinners and boxed mixes. Limit fast food, alcohol and caffeine. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water can help control your blood pressure.
Lower risk of stroke with healthy habits
“The good news is that all these can be improved with healthier eating and exercise,” Schulte said.
Finding motivation and improving your habits are key to staying on track. Schulte helps patients eliminate barriers to eating a healthier diet, like concerns over cost. Weight management and healthy lifestyle programs can also provide support.
A bag of apples is very comparable in price to a bag of Doritos,” Schulte said. “So we just need to help people problem-solve and see that a good diet is achievable.”
Schulte said setting small, realistic goals helps change eating habits.
“A lot of it involves planning ahead and making the decision to want to eat healthier,” Schulte said.
Some signs of hypertension include headaches, shortness of breath and nose bleeds. However, it’s possible to have no symptoms. It’s important to maintain routine visits with your provider to identify any health concerns.