We spend the month of May gearing up for summer. We’re planning vacations and swapping out our wardrobes—while trying to lose enough winter weight to actually slip back into those last summer favorites.
But May is also a time to think beyond the aesthetics of your body and focus on how you can best prep for a healthy future. In addition to being the prelude to summer, May is both American Stroke Month and High Blood Pressure Awareness Month. Celebrating prevention may not be as fun as celebrating Memorial Day, but the risks are too great to ignore.
Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, and most people who have had a first stroke also had high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a ticking time bomb for everything from heart disease to kidney failure, and one in six deaths in the U.S. is directly related to untreated high blood pressure. That’s why it’s so important to undergo a comprehensive physical, like the Elitra Exam, to always stay informed on your health.
To help you honor the theme of the month, our expert team at Elitra Health Center has rounded up a few simple ways even the busiest executive can prevent high blood pressure.
Monitor Your Sodium
A high-sodium diet retains and pulls water into the bloodstream, which increases your blood volume and your blood pressure over time. This blood pressure increase can cause the arteries to burst or become completely clogged, which will result in a heart attack. About 735,000 Americans will have a heart attack every year.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mgs) a day and an ideal limit of less than 1,500 mg per day for most adults, especially for those with high blood pressure. To put those numbers in perspective, the average American eats about 3,300 mg of sodium a day, which means roughly half of U.S. adults face increased risk of high blood pressure due to excess sodium.
Watching your sodium doesn’t just mean putting down the salt shaker. More than 75 percent of your dietary sodium comes from eating pre-packaged or restaurant foods.
Menus aren’t legally required to denote high-sodium foods, and it’s easy to fall into blood pressure trapdoors even when purchasing packaged foods with nutrition labels. You might think a food is low in sodium, but if it includes Monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda, baking powder, or Disodium phosphate, you’re going to hit your daily limit fast.
Our registered nutritionist will guide you through our health and wellness education program to teach you how to avoid these salt pits. Together, you’ll do a food diary review to analyze your current sodium intake and see where you can improve in your daily choices. It’s about simple solutions, like paying attention to what goes into your food and learning how to season with deep flavors that don’t pack a bunch of sodium.
We know you are incredibly busy and simply cannot make all of your meals at-home (not that you’d even want to). That’s why our nutritionist will plan and outline meal and snack solutions that take your schedule into account. We’ll help you know what to eat in any setting or situation to ensure you can eat a heart-healthy diet and curb high blood pressure even when on the go.
Recommit to Your Fitness Plan
Maintaining a healthy weight is an important part of preventing high blood pressure, and regular physical activity can lower your systolic blood pressure by an average of 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Working out requires your heart to pump faster, which strengthens its muscles and allows your heart to pump more blood with less effort in the future, reducing the force on your arteries.
It takes one to three months for regular exercise to improve your blood pressure, and the benefits only last as long as your commitment to working out does. That’s why our expert exercise physiologist at Elitra Health Center will work with you to develop a fitness plan you’ll actually stick to.
They’ll take account your lifestyle and your schedule to help you figure out when you can sneak in even just five-minute workouts between meetings (that won’t leave your suit a rumpled mess). They’ll also demonstrate the movements with you and make sure you know the proper form to keep yourself safe while working on your goals.
Weight-lifting is one form of exercise that has been known to cause a temporary—and sometimes dramatic—increase in blood pressure, which is why we teach our patients exercises that build muscles to burn calories without overstraining the body. Our exercise physiologist will lead you through a body composition and muscle mass analysis to determine what workouts are safe for you. Because while no pain, no gain is true sometimes, too much pain will hurt you in more ways than one.
Avoid Smoking and Monitor Your Drinking
While you probably guessed it, smoking raises your blood pressure and your risk of heart attack and stroke.
If you do smoke, our team at Elitra Health Center can put together a quitting plan to help you finally break the habit for good. It’s not easy, but you have our entire team of experts to lean on for support.
If you don’t smoke, we recommend just sticking clear of people who do. Breathing in secondhand smoke on a regular basis can increase the buildup of fat deposits in your blood vessels.
We know that life as a busy executive will see you forming deals and relationships over drinks (and winding down at home with some good stuff). Just keep in mind that having more than three drinks in one sitting will cause a spike in your blood pressure, and repeated binge drinking will cause a long-term increase. Opt for healthier, lower-calorie options when drinking, such as the glass of red wine or whiskey on the rocks over the salt-rimmed margarita.
Your body will thank you the day after—and on many more day afters to come.