Health care officials have known for a long time that the systolic blood pressure should be somewhere below 120. Anything above that threshold would boost the risk of heart disease and kidney problems. However, doctors would often treat patients only if that number spiked above 140.
After the National Institutes of Health conducted a study on this issue, the agency suggested that patients that belong to the grey area between 120 and 140 are worth treating, at least until their systolic pressure drops below 120.
The studies have not yet been published, but the preliminary results showed that the patients who succeeed in bringing that number down to 120 had lower risk of heart attack, stroke and death.
So, you are probably wondering how can one reduce his blood pressure to 120. The NIH suggests that there are a number of DIY interventions that may be able to prevent high systolic blood pressure rates.
The most evident one is medication. The NIH is aware that most people who take blood pressure medication are doing it just to stay close to the 140 top number mark. To reduce it to 120, people who are genetically predisposed to hypertension would need to take even more blood pressure medication, such as ACE inhibitors, diuretics, calcium channel blockers, and beta blockers.
The NIH says that this kind of treatment could come with side effects, but most people can easily tolerate them, and if any problems occur, they are not severe. The drugs are cheaper and more advanced than ever before.
Another lifestyle intervention NIH recommends is weight loss. Losing weight can lower systolic blood pressure as much as taking medication. One previous study suggests that a weight loss of 9 pounds results in a 5 points reduction of the systolic blood pressure. Maintaining a consistent weight loss of about 9 pounds during a year is believed to reduce the top number by up to 11 points.
Another common intervention used against high blood pressure rates is the reduction of salt intake. The NIH warns that more than 10% of the American population consumes nearly 10 grams a salt a day, while the American Heart Association officials recommend no more than 3-4 grams. A recent study concluded that if the daily salt intake is reduced from 10 grams to 4 grams, the systolic blood pressure number will drop by 7 points.
One of the most important interventions for high blood pressure is having a diet consisting of sufficient fruits. The NIH recommends the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which is low in sodium, but also very rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber. This diet alone could reduce systolic pressure by more than 3 points.
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