“I can literally feel my blood pressure rising.” We’ve often heard the expression from folks who get annoyed at the noise from a neighbor’s noisy leafblower, a bad bit of TV news or just a harmless prank by co-workers – but this innocuous comment can be a signal of a serious problem. As we get older, our blood vessels can harden and constrict blood flow, leading to a whole slate of poor health effects – not least of which can be the onset of vascular dementia, the second-most common form of dementia after Alzheimers. If your brain isn’t getting enough oxygen and nutrients, brain cells can become damaged or even die off. That’s bad news all around.
Even worse, unless you’ve been to a doctor, you may not know you have hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure. You can have it and be symptom-free for years! In the meantime, not knowing there’s a problem, you may not change your lifestyle to slow down or reverse the effects. Is your blood pressure reading below 120 over 80? If you don’t know, it’s time to get yourself checked.
There are some risk factors that you just can’t manage: age, genetics, or family history are just part of the lottery of life. Still, DNA is not necessarily destiny.
The good news is that we can take steps to prevent vascular dementia, just by maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle. Diligent caregivers can help ensure that patients at risk of hypertension follow these simple tips:
Keep off excess weight. The more body mass you’ve got, the more blood you’ve got to pump to keep everything healthy. Keep in shape and keep hypertension at bay.
Stay Active. You don’t have to be an athlete. Do what’s fun for you. Play sports. Go for bike rides or walks. Do outdoor activities like gardening, that we don’t really consider fitness activities – but hey, they get your blood flowing.
Don’t Smoke. This isn’t really news to most folks. That said, if you’ve had trouble quitting before, there are many new therapies and alternatives to smoking cigarettes – vaping steam or using a patch to wean yourself off the habit is a lot more healthy than inhaling carcinogens directly into your lungs.
Watch and Lower Your Salt Intake. More salt means more retaining water, which can increase blood pressure. Check the listings on your average can of soup or fast food dish and you might just be surprised how much sodium there is in there. Don’t just avoid salty snacks – look for healthy alternatives.
Manage Your Stress. Some people are just ‘high-strung’ and have difficulty keeping calm. Figure out your hot-button triggers, whether it’s something at work, a close friend’s odd views about politics or a neighbor’s unfortunate habit of interrupting every other sentence. Avoid those sources of stress, but also take steps to change your own behavior and outlook on life. Meditate, do yoga, or find some other outlet that gives you serenity when you need it.
What you put into your body is as important as what you do with it. Too much alcohol or using some prescription medicines can increase your blood pressure.
How do you stay on top of your blood pressure when you can’t necessarily feel the symptoms? Get your blood pressure checked regularly and see your doctor.