Truck driving is known to be a high stress occupation. Time pressures, traffic, long hours, isolation, inactivity, poor sleep and low-quality diet can all affect the way we manage our stress. When stress goes up, so can your blood pressure. Stress is not the only cause of high blood pressure. Being overweight and underactive can also lead to high blood pressure. As can smoking, excess alcohol consumption and a diet high in fat and sodium. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, there are several things you can do to help manage it.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
Hypertension or high blood pressure is when your heart pumps blood through your blood vessels with greater than normal force. It is often called the silent killer because you can have it for years without feeling the effects. Uncontrolled hypertension is a leading cause of premature death from heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
Lifestyle Steps to Lower Your Blood Pressure
Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to your lifestyle in order to reduce your risk.
Lose Extra Body Weight
Try to cover half your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner to help fill you up on lower calories foods
Pay attention to portion size. Consider writing a food log to assess how much you actually eat.
Identify habits that are sabotaging your efforts to lose weight. Do you eat in front of the TV or eat right from the package? Do you eat fast food and deep fried items?
Drink water. Try not to drink your calories.
Be active daily to help burn more calories each day.
Seek support from a registered dietitian. An RD can give you science based recommendations and help coach you along the way. Your extended medical may cover the costs.
Follow the DASH Diet.
The DASH diet, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is a diet that was designed by scientists and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and was found to be very effective at lowering blood pressure. This plan is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, proteins from plant sources such as nuts and legumes and low-fat milk products. It is also low in sweets, sugary drinks and red meat. Essentially, the DASH diet is a diet that is high in potassium, magnesium and calcium, which all have a lowering effect on blood pressure. It is also lower in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, which can raise blood pressure. Results from the DASH diet are seen in as little as 2 weeks.
Tips for following the DASH diet:
- Start small by adding a fruit to breakfast and an extra vegetable to lunch and dinner.
- Gradually decrease portion sizes of red meat
- Focus meals around whole grain carbohydrates such as quinoa, whole grain bread, oatmeal or brown rice.
- Try to eat vegetarian meals at least two times per week. Chickpea curry, lentil soup or Dahl, vegetarian chili or hummus and pita sandwiches are all great options.
- Incorporate nuts into your diet by putting natural peanut butter on whole grain toast
- Add beans or nuts to salads or soups
Limit Sodium Intake
We need some salt and if you exercise and sweat a lot you may need more than others. However, most adults will see a greater reduction of blood pressure when they limit sodium intake to about 1500mg and follow the DASH diet than following the diet alone.
Tips to Lower Sodium Intake:
- Taste your food before salting it. Note: 1 tsp salt has 2375mg sodium.
- Consider removing the salt shaker from the table
- Season foods while they are cooking and use fresh herbs and spices.
- Eat fresh and frozen vegetables and fruit
- Drain and rinse canned vegetables and beans
- Read your food label and choose foods with less than 15% DV for sodium
- Limit your use of salty condiments such as soy sauce, tamari, mustard, pickles, olives, hot sauces
Other Strategies to Help Lower Blood Pressure:
Reduce alcohol consumption (2 drinks or less/day)
Increase activity: Aim for 150 min per week
Manage your stress in a healthy way. Visit www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/reduce-stress
Visit our Health and Wellness section for more great resources.