Sunday, February 22, 2009

Managing hypertension

I've been struggling with hypertension over the last couple of years. At one point, one of my doctors put me on meds for it. After trying a few different ones, switching due to side effects, I settled on one that seemed to work, but it made me cough all the time, which only exacerbated my incontinence problems. I decided to try to find alternative ways to reduce my blood pressure.

I'd already achieved significant weight loss, but the bp wasn't reducing significantly. It was clear that I needed a multi-faceted attack against the hypertension.

Adding exercise was very helpful. My blood pressure actually dropped quite a bit after months of regular exercise. Exercise is important because a lack of physical activity forces the heart to work harder. Remaining sedentary makes blood flow through the main skeletal muscles more difficult for our hearts to achieve. (You can read about that here) And this is why hypertension is so bad for us, because we add more wear on to our heart muscle through the daily process of forcing it to work harder.

Other things I've tried include eating celery and garlic, which is claimed to help reduce hypertension. I've added celery on a regular basis to my diet. Garlic was already a staple. Getting enough sleep, as well as drinking enough water are also important. But one thing I had not considered before was eliminating added salt.

I didn't want to consider this option before because until a couple of years ago, I'd never had the hypertension problem, and I didn't see how my salt intake, which had never changed, could contribute to my problem. But more recently I noticed that my salt intake really had increased, because I found I had more cravings for it in my diet.

During my last trip to Green Mountain, I noticed that the salt I used from their salt shaker at mealtimes didn't seem to taste as salty as I had expected. I was salting my food, but the saltiness just wasn't there. Those tricksters! But after just one week at Green Mountain, my blood pressure had dropped even more. So I had to accept that salt was a factor in my hypertension.

Over the last few weeks, I've simply eliminated salt from a lot of foods. Cutting out as much processed food as possible was helpful. It really changed my taste for salt. In fact, I just had some uncured turkey hot dogs for lunch and found them to taste really salty! If I use butter in a recipe, it's the unsalted kind. I eat raw nuts now.

I read all labels to see if salt is included. One huge culprit is canned tomatoes. There's an unbelievable amount of salt in canned tomatoes. This summer, I plan to grow my own tomatoes and then process them myself, chopping them and freezing them in Ziploc bags. I will most likely have to pillage a few farmer's markets as well to put up enough tomatoes for the year.

I stopped salting foods during the cooking process, adding it only at the end or at the table, where it will make the most impact.

I'm down to a pre-hypertensive state now. I've got to learn to manage stress better. I bought a DVD on meditation recently. I'm hoping that it'll help me with that too.

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