Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. There are many forms of heart disease. Two of the most common are high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
It is common to hear someone taking medication to lower their blood pressure or cholesterol levels.
While this can be a somewhat good approach, managing these conditions through lifestyle changes will play a crucial role in handling the disease.
Here, I will discuss high blood pressure and cholesterol and how you can manage them by making lifestyle changes.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the pressure the blood makes on your artery’s wall while passing by. It is measured using two numbers systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.
Systolic blood is the pressure created when blood is pumped into your body. On the other hand, diastolic blood is the pressure when your heart rests between beats.
A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mmHg.
When you have a higher reading than this, it is what we typically call high blood pressure.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is when there is a higher pressure on the arteries when blood passes by. The higher the number, the higher at risk of developing heart disease or heart attack.
While there is some medication, you can take to help decrease the effects. Simple lifestyle choices can help you not rely on medication.
Is Cholesterol Bad?
Nowadays, people often give cholesterol a bad rep.
However, we must understand that our body needs some cholesterol to function normally. Some of the functions of cholesterol are:
- It maintains the integrity and fluidity of the cell’s membranes.
- It helps produce hormones like vitamin D, steroid hormones, and bile acid.
- It aids in the creation and repair of new tissue.
As you can see, there is a need for cholesterol in the body.
So, why do people say it’s terrible to consume?
To answer that question, we need to understand the primary sources of cholesterol transportation.
LDL cholesterol is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. It can build up in your arteries, potentially causing some blockage.
On the other hand, HDL cholesterol is the “good” type of cholesterol since it helps get rid of the LDL cholesterol by taking it to the liver to break it down and dispose of.
The problem arises when you have too much LDL cholesterol and not enough HDL.
Think of it as a highway. It gets built up when many cars are on the street (LDL), and the road cannot manage the load. However, when there are a lot of cars, but a of exists (HDL), the highway is not as clogged.
Lifestyle Changes For Heart Health
So, what can you do to help you manage your cholesterol and high blood pressure?
Here are some small practices to incorporate into your daily routine to help manage your conditions or prevent them from happening.
High Potassium Foods
Potassium helps lessen the effects of sodium. So, including high-potassium foods in your diet can positively impact your blood pressure.
The more potassium in your diet, the more sodium you remove from your body.
Some of the foods you can include are:
- Leafy greens
- Coconut water
Be Careful with the Sodium
A high-sodium diet draws more water to your arteries. With more water running through them, there is more pressure.
So, to avoid or reduce your blood pressure, make sure you have a low-sodium diet.
Avoid processed foods since they are the primary source of sodium in our diets. While natural foods have some minor traces of sodium, it doesn’t have as much as processed foods.
Keep your sodium intake below 2,300 mg per day.
If you include processed foods, ensure they have less than 150 mg of sodium per serving.
Add Healthy Fats
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties.
Including high omega-3 foods like chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds or green-lipped mussel oil can help reduce inflammation and bring several health properties to your heart.
Adding fish oil can be another great way to boost your omega-3 intake. However, be careful about the source. Choose wild-caught fish over farmed-raised to guarantee you have the best quality of omega-3.
Eat High Fiber Foods
Fiber acts like a broom in your system.
It is responsible for sweeping away all the waste you don’t want in your circulatory system.
Research shows that including high-fiber foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can reduce your cholesterol levels.
If you are not used to having a high-fiber food diet, make sure to add fiber slowly. Adding it suddenly without adequate hydration intake can cause bloating, stomach cramps, and constipation.
Regular physical activity can help reduce blood pressure and increase HDL levels.
The World Health Organization recommends doing at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. This can be spaced out throughout the week.
However, if you exercise 150 minutes per week but spend 5-6 hours sitting down on your computer, that is also bad for your heart health.
Make sure you have active pauses every 30 to 60 minutes to help reduce and manage your blood pressure.
Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Alcohol can raise your blood pressure.
While having one or two glasses of wine is not harmful. The problem arises when you have excess consumption.
Make sure not to drink more than one of two servings a day, hopefully no more than two to three times per week.
Stress can have a negative effect on your blood pressure.
While I would love to eliminate all the stress life brings us, it is impossible. The best thing you can do is learn how to manage it.
There are different ways you can manage your stress:
- Breathing techniques
- Art or aromatherapy
Manage Your Weight
Finally, losing weight is the most significant way to reduce your blood pressure and ensure you keep adequate cholesterol levels.
Research shows that losing 5 to 10% of your body weight can positively affect your blood pressure.
Having balanced nutrition and the constant movement can help you achieve it.
The Bottom Line
Following a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition, movement, managing stress, and reducing sodium intake are all strategies to handle and prevent high blood pressure.
While having high cholesterol levels is not entirely bad. The problem arises when your LDL cholesterol is high, and your HDL cholesterol is low. Make sure to have a fiber and healthy fats diet to keep your heart healthy.