Nearly 1.3 billion people in the world have hypertension and two thirds of this number live in low and middle income countries. Hypertension is said to be a silent killer as it does not have any warning signs but can cause severe damage to the cardiovascular system and increase the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Now, a recent study published in the Journal of American Heart Association suggests that following the American Heart Association's (AHA) life's simple seven recommendations can significantly improve the health of one's heart and reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure later in life.
AHA defines 'life's simple seven' as a list of risk factors that can be improved to achieve better cardiovascular health.
The study, conducted on about 2,930 volunteers, suggests that following even a single pointer of these seven recommendations can reduce the risk of developing hypertension by 6 percent and that this effect was seen to be equal in both genders.
Here is what the 'simple seven' include.
1. Managing weight
Obesity or being overweight increases your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. According to the National Health Institute, USA, losing even five kilogrammes can reduce your blood pressure and can help improve heart health. BMI and waist circumference are two ways to check if you are overweight. Generally, a waist circumference of 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men and a BMI above 25 is considered to be high. Creating a calorie deficit (burning more than you consume) is one way to lose weight.
Although the number of calories you need in a day varies as per your health, lifestyle and age, women are recommended to have about 2,000 calories per day while men are recommended to have 2,500 calories a day.
2. Taking a healthy diet
A healthy and balanced diet is one of the foundations for a healthy heart. Limit the intake of processed food, sodium, trans fat and saturated fats. Instead, cook at home when you can and add as many colours to your meal.
Include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, legumes, skinless poultry and fish in your diet.
You can also have low-fat dairy and seeds and nuts. Stick to small serving sizes to avoid overeating and always check nutrition labels while buying products from the supermarket.
3. An active lifestyle
A sedentary lifestyle is one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack and stroke. Staying physically active can not only reduce hypertension but also help you lose weight and improve overall health.
Experts recommend indulging in about 150 minutes of low intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic activity in a week to stay physically fit.
You can break the 150 minutes to 30 minutes of cardio every day, five days a week. However, it is best to start slow and set realistic goals. Slowly scale up to improve your muscle strength.
4. Avoid smoking
Smoking increases your risk of developing atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque development occurs inside your arteries. Atherosclerosis may, in turn, increase blood pressure due to narrowing of arteries. Additionally, your blood pressure increases temporarily every time you smoke.
According to the World Health Organisation, tobacco kills about eight million people every year and about 1.2 million of these are second-hand smokers. Learning the risks of smoking is the first step to quitting the habit.
It is best to make a plan if you want to quit smoking and then take help from healthcare professionals or family and friends to kick the habit. Your doctor may suggest nicotine replacement and other helpful techniques to help you quit.
5. Managing blood pressure
Managing blood pressure early in life is a good way to keep up your cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of strokes and heart attack later.
High blood pressure is when your blood pressure goes between 130-139/80-89 mmHg.
An active lifestyle, proper sleep, weight management and a healthy diet are some of the ways to manage blood pressure. DASH diet, consisting of increased fibre intake, low-fat dairy and fresh fruits and vegetables, is suggested to be effective in blood pressure management.
6. Manage blood sugar levels
Increased blood sugar levels in diabetic people slowly damage the blood vessels and heart and put you at risk of heart diseases at a relatively younger age. Regularly monitor your blood glucose levels if you are diabetic. If you are at risk of developing diabetes, a healthy diet, regular exercise and weight management may help.
7. Manage cholesterol levels
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is needed by the body for some vital functions including formation of cell membranes and bile. Not all cholesterol is bad for health.
There is LDL or bad cholesterol and HDL or good cholesterol. If you have too much LDL and not enough HDL, it will increase your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Excessive cholesterol tends to lodge on the walls of blood vessels and lead to plaque formation " atherosclerosis. This narrows blood vessels and increases the risk of hypertension, stroke and heart attack.
The only way to know your cholesterol levels is to get them tested from time to time. If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may suggest you reduce your fatty food intake and increase physical activity. Quitting smoking also helps in reducing cholesterol levels.
For more information, read our article on High blood pressure.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India's first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.