What Is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure (HBP) is a disease in which blood flows through blood vessels at a higher than normal pressure. It is sometimes referred to as hypertension. Potential complications associated with HBP are chronic kidney disease, heart attacks, heart failure, stroke and vascular dementia.
Because HBP often goes undetected, it is often called “the silent killer.” However, unlike many other potentially dangerous diseases and conditions, HBP is treatable once it has been detected. Therefore, it is very important to check your blood pressure and encourage your loved ones to do the same. It is the first step in fighting the disease.
If your family member is dealing with HBP, there are many lifestyle changes you can encourage him/her to make to treat the condition.
What Factors Influence Blood Pressure?
Uncontrollable Risk Factors
There are certain risk factors associated with HBP that are out of our control:
- The risk for HBP increases over time (although it does occur in children and teens more rarely).
- Men are more likely to develop hypertension before age 55, and women are more likely to develop it after age 55.
- HBP pressure runs in families, so some people are more likely to develop it based on heredity and their genetic background.
- Hypertension is more common in black adults than white, Hispanic or Asian adults.
Controllable Risk Factors
There are many important risks factors that are controllable:
- Obese people are two to three times more likely to have HBP than people who are not obese.
- Being physically inactive increases your risk of developing HBP.
- People who consume three or more alcoholic beverages per day are at a higher risk for developing hypertension.
- Unhealthy eating habits contribute to the disease, especially the excessive consumption of sodium.
- Smoking can be harmful to those with HBP, as it causes the arteries to narrow much more quickly.
- Stress causes a physiological response that elevates the heart rate and blood pressure. Extreme levels of stress or recurring stressors can worsen HBP over time.
How to Educate Your Family Member
If your family member is dealing with HBP, there is no reason to lose hope. There are many effective measures he/she can take to treat the disease. With your support and encouragement, your loved one can combat HBP for good.
For some, the process of treating HBP can be tough, as it involves making many lifestyle changes. Changing diet and exercise habits or quitting smoking can be difficult for your family member, especially if these habits have been maintained for a long time. Be patient and don’t expect things to be easy. However, make it clear to your loved one that these changes are necessary and that you are happy to help him/her every step of the way.
Show your family member some helpful resources that clearly explain everything he/she needs to know about HBP (the causes, risk factors, signs and symptoms, and information on diagnosis and treatment):
- The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
- The Mayo Clinic
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Healthy Habits to Encourage Your Family Member to Adopt
Here are some ways you can encourage your family member to make the right lifestyle changes:
- To help your family member reduce his/her salt intake and make diet changes more approachable, find some delicious, healthy recipes to pass along. You can even cook some of the dishes to show that eating healthier doesn’t have to be boring! Look for healthy, low-salt versions of some of your family member’s favorite foods to make the transition a little easier.
- Encourage your loved one to be more active by suggesting some fun exercise classes to take together. There are so many enjoyable ways to improve your physical fitness, including taking spinning classes, dance classes, kickboxing courses, rock climbing lessons, etc.
- Make these lifestyle changes more enjoyable by turning them into bonding experiences that you can fit into both of your routines. Look forward to your time to cook and eat together, or your relaxing yoga sessions. This is also how these healthy habits become a more permanent part of your family member’s lifestyle.
Encourage your loved one to see a doctor if he/she is still struggling with HBP after making these lifestyle changes, as there are medications that can be used to control the disease.