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Take control

Be the boss of your blood pressure

The most notorious factors that elevate blood pressure are an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, continuous stress, obesity and excessive alcohol consumption. You should tackle them one issue at a time. You don't need to fix everything at once. Even minor changes can help you start turning things around.

Let's see what we have.

Salt

First and foremost, there's salt. Nearly all Finns get too much salt from their diet. Salt is a real villain in this story and true enemy for the health of your brain. The recommended maximum daily intake of salt is 5 grams, but on average, men double that number. Changing regular table salt to one of its sexier siblings does not help either. You see, the various rock salts, Himalayan salts and other specialties contain the exact same sodium chloride as your table salt. So don't be fooled. Their impact on your blood pressure is exactly as harmful as that of regular salt. The colour of non-purified salt comes mainly from a number of impurities, such as rust. There's no point in spending money on that. However, it's definitely worth the trouble to read the labels of processed foods, cold cuts and bread.

Diet

Yes, your diet. Let's start with this: you do not need to cut anything out of your diet right away. Simply adding something is enough. Start with some of these: root vegetables, berries, fruit and whole wheat. You might also want to switch fatty dairy products to their non-fat alternatives. Replacing cream and butter with margarine and vegetable fat in your diet reduces the amount of saturated fat, which is no friend to your blood vessels.

The dark delicacy called liquorice is the proverbial icing on the cake. It's another monster that elevates your blood pressure. If you feel like you cannot get your blood pressure under control, take a moment and see how much of these black sweets you eat.

Alcohol

Do you enjoy a glass of red wine with friends or is a 12-pack of beer your frequent weekend companion? Alcohol has a direct elevating impact on blood pressure. It is 50% more common to have elevated blood pressure if you regularly drink 3–4 portions per day. If you are used to a having a drink or three on a daily basis, your blood pressure starts building up without you even noticing. All the while your tolerance to alcohol increases. Drinking to levels of intoxication is particularly dangerous. Getting proper wasted elevates blood pressure considerably and increases the risk of brain hemorrhage. Drinking alcohol first decreases blood pressure. It then goes up again after a few hours. That's a rollercoaster your vessels won't endure for long.

If illegal drugs are a part of your life, whether occasionally or habitually, keep in mind that they also impact your blood pressure. The effect of this impact depends on the stuff you take. Some illegal drugs elevate blood pressure (stimulants) while some lower it (opioids). Designer drugs and medication, taken individually or as various cocktails with, for example, alcohol, have unpredictable effects. Honestly though – if polydrug use is your thing, then blood pressure might not be your biggest problem.

Obesity

How are you doing in the weight department? Considering switching to industrial scales? Even if you are only, let's say, 15 kg overweight, you are three times more likely to have elevated blood pressure than the guy with normal weight. On the other hand, consider that losing just five percent of your weight is often enough to lower your blood pressure. So you don't need to reach for the stars. The point is to take action.

Nicotine products

As you probably already knew, there's nothing positive about smoking. At the very latest, you should quit smoking if you notice your blood pressure levels trending upward. Quitting for good is the best self-care method there is. Both smoking and elevated blood pressure increase the risk of atherosclerosis, and cigarettes also raise your blood pressure values. So, when you ditch your cigarettes, chances are your blood pressure returns to normal, and your atherosclerosis risk decreases considerably. And by the way, snuff is not a healthy option either, since it has the same elevating impact on blood pressure as cigarettes. There is currently a great human experiment in progress called the electronic cigarette. Time will tell how unhealthy it ultimately is.

Stress

Modern life is stressful, so no wonder it also impacts blood pressure. There may be nothing you can do about it. There are so many things that may cause stress: work, studies, family life, environmental noise, natural disasters, conflicts, personal matters. Although you may not be able to do anything to what's causing your stress, you can try to make yourself feel better by exercising and maintaining good relationships. That should help you lower your blood pressure readings.

Exercise

Going for a run or doing your favourite type of exercise truly pays off. Regular exercise is an effective way to keep your blood pressure in check. You will also see results, quickly. Elevated blood pressure may start to decline or even normalise in a couple of months.

So here we are. Now, pick one of the factors that elevate your blood pressure and tackle it first.