Maintaining My Blood Pressure Post COVID-19
By Dr Rajdip Barai | Consultant Physician
Blood Pressure control - A key to Good Health During Covid Times.
Hypertension is defined as a systolic blood pressure (BP) ≥130 and/or diastolic BP ≥80 mm hg. It is a primary modifiable risk factor associated with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. COVID-19 has created a global catastrophe. But it has also helped us realise the value of a healthy body with good immunity. Sri Sathya Sai Baba says, “Bend the body, mend the senses and end the mind”. Health is not merely the absence of disease, but a sense of complete well-being. A healthy body, regulated sense organs and controlled mind keeps one healthy and happy. Baba also says that “Hurry, worry and curry” are the root cause of heart diseases.
The following life-style amendments, the 12 golden rules can help us in keeping blood pressure and metabolic syndrome under control and achieve a healthy and happy life.
1. Losing the extra weight
Weight loss helps in reduction in the blood pressure, especially in the overweight and obesity. People who are overweight or having a higher BMI (body mass index) are at a higher risk of developing hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. The extra weight can also lead to obstructive sleep apnea which further increases blood pressure. A waist measurement of 35 inch or higher (for women) or 40 inch or higher (for men) is related to high blood pressure, diabetes, increased blood lipid levels, and coronary heart disease.
2. Increasing physical activity and regular exercising
COVID-19 and the lockdown has kept all of us at home which has led to a reduction in physical activities. Regular physical activity helps in reduction of hypertension. 150 minutes of exercise a week or 30 minutes of moderate activity most days a week is recommended. Exercise should be done regularly and consistently. Yoga and Asanas (Different body postures) are known to help in control of hypertension and metabolic syndrome. Aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, or cycling help us in blood pressure reduction. Simple lifestyle amendments that increase our physical activity are - using the stairs instead of the elevator, walking instead of driving short distances, doing household chores, gardening etc.
3. Eating a healthy diet
Diet rich in fruits, whole grains, green vegetables etc. helps in lowering blood pressure. High fiber diets are useful to maintain the health of the heart. It is advisable to avoid processed food. It is a choice between what tastes good and what is really good and healthy. Diet with less spices, salt and sugar (satvik diet) helps in generating pure thoughts and leads to a healthy body.
4. Restricting salt in diet
Reduction of salt in diet helps in control of hypertension. Adding extra salt in diet is not recommended and avoiding processed food is a healthy choice. Pickles and ketchups particularly are high in sodium content. The potato chips will certainly taste good but is best to be avoided.
5. Restricting refined sugar and other refined carbohydrates
Refined carbs are processed which removes many nutrients and fiber from the food product. The main dietary sources of refined carbs are white flour, white bread, white rice, white sugar, white milk, pastries, sodas, snacks, sweets and breakfast cereals. They are also added to all sorts of processed foods which are better to be avoided.
Added sugar has a direct impact on obesity and diabetes. Consuming too much added sugar can raise blood pressure and increase chronic inflammation, both of which are pathological pathways to heart disease. Top sources are soft drinks, fruit drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, cookies, cakes, candy, and most processed foods. Cutting down on table sugar is beneficial for a good health.
6. Drinking adequate water-the elixir of life
Drinking enough water (minimum of eight glasses per day) has its own benefits and prevents dehydration. Only in few conditions like congestive cardiac failure, water restriction is advised. Water in our body helps in carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells, flushing toxins through the kidneys, helping in digestion, preventing constipation, normalising blood pressure, cushioning joints, regulating body temperature and maintaining electrolyte balance.
7. Decreasing mental stress
Chronic psychological stress is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. People need to learn how to cope up with stress. Stress can be reduced by changing our lifestyle and certain practices. Simplifying the schedule or daily routine is beneficial. Multitasking can be stressful if we are not able to cope up with it. Breathing techniques help in relaxation. Regular yoga and meditation can help in calming the mind and are known to decrease the cortisol levels. Prayer elicits the relaxation response, and releases control to something greater than oneself, which can reduce the stress of needing to be in charge. Shifting perspective from target-oriented to happiness-oriented life is beneficial for our health in the long run.
8. Developing a giving and helping attitude
Studies show that a philanthropic attitude boosts our physical and mental health. It also helps to develop greater self-esteem, lessen depression, and lower stress levels. By participating in service activities, we secrete “feel good” chemicals in our brains, such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin which are essential for good health. Studies of functional MRIs of subjects have shown that charity stimulates the mesolimbic pathway and releases endorphins which are key to happiness. Philanthropy has shown to lower blood pressure, increase self-esteem, lessen depression, lower stress levels, and give more happiness and fulfillment in life.
9. Getting a good restful sleep
Getting a good sleep at regular hours at sync with our biological clock is vital for good health and physical and mental well-being. It also helps build a good immunity. Sleep deficiency is linked to hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and depression. Sleeping early and getting up early has a positive impact on our health and our minds.
10. Avoiding smoking and other addictions
Smoking and tobacco related products are detrimental for health. It can lead to hypertension, heart diseases, cancer, heart disease, stroke, and chronic lung disease. Indulgence in alcohol and drinking can lead to hypertension, heart diseases, stroke, liver diseases and certain cancers. It can also lead to mental health problems including depression and anxiety. Nowadays, addiction to gadgets, especially mobile phones and tablets has been a matter of concern. It can make people dependent on their gadgets and restrict their physical activity. It also has a toll on the mind.
Having a digital blood pressure machine at home and regular monitoring helps us keep a track of hypertension. Similarly, diabetics can monitor their blood sugars at home with a glucometer and update their doctors. Routine blood check-up at regular intervals as advised by our doctors help us keep a track of our health. Not only our physical well-being but also our mind needs self-monitoring. Rather than behaving instinctively, having conscious thoughts and decisions help us have a better control over our lives. Thoughts which are constructive and filled with positivity and compassion create a balance and equilibrium in our lives and change our perspectives about life. Practising gratitude helps enrich our lives.
12. Regular follow up with doctor and following the doctor’s advice
Being in touch with the family doctor and following the doctor’s advice is very important. At times depending too much on the information on the internet regarding health issues can be confusing. Self-medication is not advisable. Doctors should be regulating the chronic medication doses and regular follow up is advisable.
Following these basic guidelines and regulating our life will help us gain a better health and regulated life. It will help us add positivity to our lives and help us achieve a healthy body and a happy mind.