5 Causes for High Blood Pressure
Madeline Haller - Men's Health News
July 10, 2012
Ditch the potato chips, save your heart. A recent study from the Journal Circulation found eating a diet high in salt for several years can damage your blood vessels—upping your risk for developing high blood pressure.
"Whoa, have you been working late?"
Researchers recruited 5,556 people who didn’t have high blood pressure and measured the sodium concentrations in their blood. When the researchers checked in roughly 7 years later, participants with the highest blood sodium levels—which signals a high-salt diet—were 21 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than people with the lowest levels.
But a diet high in salt isn’t the only thing that’s causing your blood pressure to go though the roof. In fact, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine, a diet high in salt is believed to be responsible for only 20 to 40 percent of all cases of high blood pressure in the United States. So to improve your odds and protect your pump, avoid the other major culprits below.
Your Stressful Schedule
Chronic stress, like the kind you experience every day during your 9-to-5, can significantly increase your blood pressure, says Eric Topol, M.D., Men’s Health advisor and cardiologist at Scripps Health. Your move: Grab a glass of milk. Stress lowers your levels of serotonin, which is the body’s go-to stay-calm chemical. But milk contains whey protein, which Dutch researchers found can help boost tryptophan, one of the building blocks of serotonin, by 43 percent.
Your Excess Baggage
Weight is one of the biggest contributors to high blood pressure. But then again, it differs from person to person, says Dr. Topol. “Some people can be extremely heavy and their blood pressure is normal, while others can gain just a little weight and their blood pressure goes through the roof,” he says. Your move: Ditch the processed crap and upgrade your kitchen with whole foods like fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains, as well as proteins like fish and meat. “Your body requires about ten times more energy to process a gram of protein than a gram of fat. So you’ll burn more calories just by eating more protein-packed foods,” says Alan Aragon, M.S., Men’s Health nutrition advisor.
Channeling your inner carnivore also helps your blood pressure. Australian researchers found that people with high blood pressure who swapped 8 percent of their daily calories from bread, potatoes, cereal, or pasta with lean red meat saw a four-point drop in their systolic blood pressure in just 8 weeks.
Genetics certainly play a major role in your blood pressure, but that doesn’t mean your fate is sealed if your old man had the condition. Even if you have the genetic burden, you may be able to override it by leading an active lifestyle, Dr. Topol says. Case in point: Researchers studied 6,000 people who had a family history of high blood pressure, yet hadn’t developed it themselves. At the end of the five-year study, those who walked briskly for at least 150 minutes per week had a 34 percent lower risk of developing the disease than people who were inactive.
Your Lack of Exercise
Lack of activity doesn’t just contribute to your growing waistline—it greatly ups your risk for high blood pressure, too. Your move: Hit the gym on a regular basis and make sure you’re getting your dose of aerobic exercise, advises Dr. Topol. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes (or longer) of moderately intense physical activity, at least five days a week. The reason: Regular physical activity opens up your blood vessels, which ultimately helps keep the pressure in your veins and arteries at normal levels.