Some know it as the “silent killer” others commonly refer to it as hypertension. Hypertension is often asymptomatic, meaning it has no symptoms hence the nickname. If left untreated, high blood pressure can be fatal and result in a stroke or heart attack. If we look through the history of bodybuilding, it is no secret many have been taken from us way too soon due to heart attacks. Many supplements in the industry can directly or indirectly increase your risk for hypertension. If you were to stack these supplements with a stressful, inactive, and unhealthy lifestyle, then your risk for adverse effects will be augmented. Therefore, this article is intended to increase your awareness and allow you to take proactive steps to control your blood pressure without the use of medications.
Your blood pressure is broken down into systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. S11When an individual’s systolic blood pressure exceeds 120 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure exceeds 80 mm Hg, he or she is at risk for various degenerative disease including heart failure, end-stage renal disease, and peripheral vascular disease. Aforementioned, hypertension can even be fatal if left untreated, and result in a stroke or heart attack. Therefore, understanding what hypertension is and how to mitigate it is paramount. The current blood pressure categories are listed below.
As you can see there are various categories for blood pressure, if you want to check your blood pressure regularly, you can purchase a blood pressure monitor or cuff at your local Walmart, CVS, or Walgreens. Some stores may also have a blood pressure machine next to the pharmacy that you can use for free. Keep in mind you may want to check your blood pressure twice. There is such a thing called the white coat syndrome in which your nerves and anxiety get the best of you and increase your blood pressure when your blood pressure is being measured. If your blood pressure is still high after checking it multiple times, then try out my top five recommendations to control your blood pressure below.
1. Lose weight-
- It is amazing what a few pounds can do to control your blood pressure. If you were to lose one kilogram, you could decrease both your systolic and diastolic blood pressure by approximately 1 mm Hg. To lose one kilogram, you would have to create a caloric deficit of 7,700 calories. Creating this caloric deficit can come from exercising. However, the easiest way to decrease your calories would have to come from your dietary regimen. Therefore, finding a diet that you can adhere to is imperative. Keep in mind the estimated time to burn a pound of body fat can take 8 to 12 hours while substituting a 20-oz bottle of regular cola (240 kilocalories) with water takes one second. If you make wise choices such as this consistently, then 7,700 calories can be achieved quickly.
2. The DASH Diet-
- The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to control or prevent high blood pressure. The DASH diet is backed by multiple studies and is practiced in clinical settings by registered dietitians. If you were on a 2,000-kilocalorie diet, the table below would be your dietary recommendations per day based on food groups.
|Food Group||2,000 kcal diet servings per day||Example of serving sizes|
|Grains (whole grains)||7-8||
-One slice of bread
-½ cup (1oz) dry cereal
-½ cup cooked rice, pasta, or cereal and fiber
-1 cup raw, leafy vegetables
-½ cup cooked vegetables
-6 oz. vegetable juice
|Fruits and Juices||4-5||
-6 oz. fruit juice
-One medium fruit
-¼ cup dried fruit
-½ cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit
|Milk, nonfat or low-fat||2-3||-8 oz. milk, 1 cup yogurt, or 1.5 oz. cheese.|
|Meats, poultry, and fish||2 or less||
-3 oz. cooked meat, poultry, or fish
-One egg white
|Nuts, seeds, and legumes||½ -1||-1.5 oz. (1/2 cup) nuts, ½ oz. or 2 Tbsp. seeds, ½ cup cooked legumes.|
|Fats and oils||2-3||-One Tsp. soft margarine, vegetable oil, 1 Tbsp. low-fat mayo, or salad dressing, or 2 Tbsp. light salad dressing/|
-1 Tbsp. jelly
-½ cup sorbet
-One small cookie
- As you can see there are various options available for each food group to find more options, please follow this link https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dash. If you currently are not near the aforementioned recommendations, it is important to make gradual changes first, as the DASH diet is high in fiber. If your fiber intake is not near the adequate intake of 14g/1000 kcal recommendations, you may deal with minor short term gastrointestinal issues such as bloating and diarrhea. Therefore, adhere to these recommendations slowly and progressively.
3. Reduce Stress
- When you face emotional discomfort during a stressful situation, the body releases hormones into the blood that make the heart pump faster and constrict blood vessels. Over time, chronic stress along with being overweight and a poor dietary regimen will lead to hypertension. If you want to reduce your stress and control your blood pressure, then being proactive and self-aware is paramount. In my experiences, I believe the best way to mitigate stress is never to expect anything from anyone and always give more than you receive. When we expect someone or something to give us something of value, then we have the possibility of disappointment and stress from our expectations. However, if you have no expectation, then the possibility of disappointment and stress are attenuated. It is straightforward but often never practiced because it is human nature to expect a favor or something of value from others based on what you have done for them. Therefore, be mindful of your actions and give more than you receive. Often this will mitigate stress and manifest strong relationships amongst the people you see every day and the people you see periodically. Over time, these relationships established can be of value to you somewhere down the line.
- If you are mindful of the principles mentioned above and still suffer from stress, you will be glad there are several other options. The first of which is to take a few steps back and relax.
- Focus on one task at a time and concentrate on things you can control rather than the ones you cannot.
- Try aromatherapy! For some, the aroma of the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, and roots can enhance your psychological and physical well-being.
- Try Yoga! Yoga combines physical poses, controlled breathing, and meditation or relaxation to help people reduce stress. If you are lucky, you may even have instructors at your local fitness center who use both aromatherapy and yoga to decrease your stress levels.
4. Review Your Supplements
- If you were to look at your supplements right now, odds are one or more of your supplements will state not to take the product or consult with your physician if you have high blood pressure. In my experiences, these statements were often ignored for one because I was young and two because all I cared about was crushing my workout. However, as I have become older, I become mindful of specific ingredients such as my overall consumption of caffeine and to a lesser degree creatine. Although most individual supplements do not contain an excess of caffeine and creatine, you should be aware of your daily intake of these compounds. Many people often stack pre-workouts, intra-workouts, and post-workouts. As a result, your overall intake of ingredients accumulates. Therefore, being mindful is imperative. About 400 mg of caffeine a day is safe and will not affect your blood pressure. However, some people are genetically predisposed to hypertension, so be proactive and prudent with your caffeine intake if you fall into this category. As for creatine, if you have high blood pressure, you should talk to your physician to get his or her recommendations. If you do not have hypertension, then you can be liberal with your creatine intake.
5. Quit Smoking
- Smoking is the number one cause of preventable deaths in the United States. Smoking is a major independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease which includes hypertension. I have always believed it takes 21 days to build a habit and 21 seconds to break a habit. However, in the case of smoking, I think going “cold turkey” is not a good idea. To quit smoking, you need to take gradual steps to cut down before eliminating it all together. You may also want to change your habits as well. We have often heard we are creatures of habit, therefore, if you want to stop smoking you need to substitute whatever triggers you to smoke with different activities such as playing basketball, getting a deep tissue massage, or jogging. In my experiences, being self-aware of my addictions and what triggers them has enabled me to be proactive and replace my abdication with something of value to my health and my mind. Therefore, make sure to prioritize your health and control your blood pressure, after all, you only have one life.
-Robert E. Salazar, MS, RDN, LDN