Hypertension aka high blood pressure is a common lifestyle disease. Earlier, this disease was prevalent only in developed countries. However, in the last two decades, the disease has spread its wings all over the world. A common reason for increased blood pressure is the change in lifestyle including food habits, work habits, lack of exercise, etc. Before looking at methods to reduce hypertension, let us look at hypertension itself.
Hypertension In India
Hypertension is a leading cause of deaths in India, according to a study in 2013. In fact, hypertensive heart disease accounted for 2.6 lakh deaths in India each year, according to the study. Hypertension is the most common chronic disease in India. The number of people with hypertension are increasing in urban areas; whereas, in the rural areas it is still lower. According to an estimate, there were approximately 118 million affected people in India in the year 2000. By the year 2025, the number is expected to touch 214 million.
Since, hypertension is often invisible and does not exhibit easily noticeable symptoms, the disease itself is called silent killer. So it is very important to keep a check on your blood pressure levels at regular intervals.
Hypertension as a lifestyle disease
Over the past few decades, Indians have seen vast changes in every walks of life. It includes the way we eat to the way we commute to our work place. These lifestyle changes have not spared even our sleep. Let us take a look at some of those changes. We used to cook our food and eat it. Now we go to restaurants. We used to commute by train or bus. Now we take our car. Those were only a few examples. All these changes have had effect on the way our body.
How to Reduce Hypertension
There are many ways to reduce your hypertension. Taking medicines and not changing our lifestyle is the easiest way out there. However, do remember. There is a cost to it. No; I am not talking about the financial cost, rather, cost in terms of our overall well being. Taking too much medicines is not a healthy practice. Someday, those bad effects which hide inside your body will pop out of nowhere and cause you worries. So here are five things I practice.
Change Food Habits
Using less salt is the number one way to reduce your blood pressure. It is easier said than done. Every packaged food item we eat, especially those fried chips, contain good amount of salt. We may not notice this while eating. Normally we eat those items either while watching TV or talking to our friends. In either case, you focus on your primary activity – watching TV or talking.
Recent studies have suggesting that sugar intake is more dangerous than salt intake. So it is in your interest to reduce the sugar intake. By reducing the sugar intake, you get other obvious health benefits too. I reduced my sugar intake a lot.
Fiber Rich Food
Eat fiber rich food. Again you must have heard this so many times. How do I ensure that the food I eat is fiber rich? One of the easiest way is to include known fiber rich food in your diet. Include some food items like lentils and broccoli in our food.
Most noteworthy, you should reduce the amount of food you eat. In fact, we do not realize the amount of food we eat. We need not eat a lot of food as we think. I reduced my weight from 82 kg to 70 kg in four months. Without any additional exercise. It is that easy. Just reduce the amount of food. I tried fasting. It did not work. I am sharing with you what worked for me.
Change Entertainment Habits
Know that television is our number one enemy. It forces us to stay in one place, eat more, reduces our sleep, etc. I know that it is difficult to change the habits. Yes, even I used to spend a lot of time in front of television. When I used to come back from work, I used to switch on the television and spend a lot of time in front of it.
Less Television Time
What we see and hear daily impacts our thoughts. The impact can be either positive or negative. In case of television, it is mostly negative. I would narrate how it affects negatively. And, it affects men, women and kids in different ways.
Men mostly watches sports and news. Those watching sports like cricket spend a lot of time in front of the television sets. Yes, it is an entertainment medium. However, it makes us lazy. Someone else is paid for our time. In case of news, the anchors tell us their version of a story and silently force us to have the same opinion as theirs. It affects us negatively.
Women mostly watch serials on television. I have tried watching some serials which my mother watches. I cannot simply digest the contents. They mostly portray a perfect woman as the protagonist. And you as a woman, expect that perfect behaviour from everyone else. It is a recipe for disaster in family life.
As a kid, I watched a lot of television. I could have spent that time better. Instead, I could have read a few works of fiction. I could have gone out with my friends.
Less Social Networking
Similar things apply for social networks as well. There are benefits, however, harms outweigh those benefits. I stopped using Facebook a few months ago and never regretted. It was one of the best decisions I have made.
You may be wondering how these things affect your hypertension. Hypertension itself is a silent killer. Televisions and social network makes silent changes in your body. You may get upset with some new story or government’s action or inaction in certain scenarios. Those things increase your blood pressure. You may not realize the change while it is happening. Now I worry less about these things and I am happy.
Change Work Habits
Every company out there tries to give you a feeling that you are the most empowered person in your role. I too, have fallen in that trap. Empowering you gives many benefits to your employer. You think that you are empowered to do some action. With that feeling, you spend more time at work. You try to behave as if the whole company depends on your work. You begin to think that no one can replace you. If a company achieves to build that mindset inside you, they have won their battle. And, you will work forever, thinking that you are very important.
Excitement About Empowerment
Such thoughts about empowerment, in fact does not reduce your hypertension. It increases your blood pressure and pushes you to spend more time at work. However, I am not saying that you should not be loyal to your employer. When you put too much effort into something not worth it, the line between exploitation and your commitment becomes thin. At one stage, it becomes non-existent. And, by the time we realize our mistake, it will be too late.
Carrying Laptops Home
At my work, the employer used to give laptops to everyone. And, we were not allowed to keep laptops at office. We had to carry it home and bring back next day. And when you have your office with you 24×7, you can work 24×7 as well, if needed. When I go back, I had to carry the laptop. It added a few kilograms to my backpack and often hurt me. When I realized what was happening with me, I spoke to my manager and got permission to keep my laptop at office. I told him that since I stay close to office, I could reach office in case there is something which requires my urgent attention. He agreed.
Unless your job involves frequent travelling, chances are that you spend much of your time working on a computer sitting on the same chair four hours on end. You may not realize the damage you have done to your body, until it is too late. So get up and start walking. When you call some informal meetings, do not sit and discuss. Stand up and discuss. Use a whiteboard to draw something and explain your thoughts. Physical actions always help.
Once upon a time, when I was on a junior role in a company, I used to think that I was the most important guy. That did not cost me much, but I realized how I was being exploited by my employer. However, I could figure out the wrong signals before it was too late. Similarly, I used to sit on the chair for a long time and work continuously. Although my productivity was very high at those periods, my heath began taking a toll. It took me a few visits to a doctor to get things in order.
Change Travel Habits
We commute to our workplace on a daily basis. Almost everyday, we take the most comfortable option to travel. It is okay to choose a comfortable option to travel. At times, you can take one of those uncomfortable option too. Just for a change. It gives you a different perspective.
I used to take an auto rickshaw to work every day. The workplace was just a few kilometers away. Later, when I had to shift my residence, I chose a house near to the office, just under a kilometer. That caused me some worries. I could no longer get a rickshaw. The auto drivers simply refused to take me to the office, because they could get another customer who wants to travel a longer distance. So I started walking. It was difficult, but there was no choice. It took me two weeks to get adjusted to that change.
Now I am reaping the benefits of that move. I walk for a couple of kilometers every day. That is a big achievement. I could feel the difference in a couple of months. I could feel myself healthier. When I walk to work, I could see other people. I would forget about work and concentrate on walking. Daily walking has helped me. I know that it would work for you as well. My father, used to walk every for a few kilometers. And that morning walk helped him reduce hypertension and reduce the medicine intake. And, his doctor concurred too.
Change Sleep Habits
All other bad habits I had, effectively led to less sleep. In some cases, I could feel that the quality of my sleep was not good enough. I could not feel the same excitement and freshness every morning. I still remember when I used to wake up early in the morning and asked myself – Why the hell am I working? Why isn’t today a holiday?
Yes, I know some of you may also be facing similar problems. However, do not be discouraged. If you can make at least one of the above changes in your life, then the sleep quality will improve. It is important that our mind and body gets complete rest when we sleep. In my case, it was not so for long. My next day at work always used to bother me during my sleep. Sometimes, I could even feel an uneasiness inside me.
While I made changes in four areas mentioned earlier, there is one area where I still could not make a change. I could not stop using computer before I sleep. Mostly, because that was my productive time. I could get most out of the day after my dinner. Everyone else sleeps early and I can concentrate on my work. There is no one to disturb me at night.
It has not bothered me till date. I am not sure if this is affecting me silently. I could not see any anomaly in routine medical tests.
Hypertension can kill you. In fact, it deserves the name silent killer. The first step in overcoming these issues is to accept the fact that we have hypertension. There is no point in telling ourselves that whatever difficulty we face are temporary and you can change it with some adjustments. However, if we do not adjust our life, we stand to loose. There is no one else to blame other than yourself.
Although I was never diagnosed with hypertension, I could feel some of those pressure moments in my life. I made some adjustments in my life and thankfully it has worked out in my favour.
All of these changes I have made does not cost any money. Only my grit was required and I did no exercise. You too can change. Do not attempt to change all at once, take time. It is a long game. If the doctor has prescribed any medicines, take it religiously without fail.
In case you have high blood pressure or hypertension, it is important to monitor the blood pressure regularly. Please take a look the best blood pressure monitors available in India.