Guest Author - Evelyn Rainey
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the top three health issues for women veterans.
Almost one-half of the 73 million people in the US with hypertension are women. According to the American Heart Association and WebMD, women are especially at risk for high blood pressure if they are on the birth control pill, pregnant, overweight, postmenopausal, African American, or have a family history of hypertension. The average age of women vets today is 47, so chances are excellent that she has at least one of the above stated characteristics.
Overall, the risk factors for 95% of hypertension cases are also the key element to bring high blood pressure under control.
Obesity raises the chances of developing hypertension. Improving your diet and increasing your activity level can lower your blood pressure. Gradual changes in your diet should be made to lower salts, saturated fats and processed sugars. Eat more of what your drill sergeant said was good for you: veggies, grains, nuts, seeds, and fruit. Eat more fish and chicken and less red meat. You donít necessarily need to take supplements, but do heighten your use of foods rich in magnesium, garlic, omega3, potassium, and calcium. Exercise a minimum of 45 minutes every other day. Better diet and improved cardiovascular activities mean you are going to loose weight, so obesity will no longer be a factor.
Another set of triggers is your affective needs, particularly, how you handle stress. Stress can include and/or be exacerbated by booze and smoking. Some people have higher stress tolerance than others. They seem calm, cool and collected through almost anything. They tend to be assertive without being obnoxious. They take responsibility for their actions and do not blame themselves for another personís actions. They can listen to criticism without dissolving or exploding. They tend to have organized and orderly houses, finances, closets, and time schedules. They do not allow others to make them feel guilty or inferior. I think most importantly, they have a good (not sarcastic) sense of humor. They donít need a drink to relax them or a cigarette to calm their nerves.
And guess what? Increasing your exercise activities lowers your stress level, and that ties right in with improving your diet.
There are other factors which can lead to hypertension, but you donít have much control over them. Age Ė there is a greater risk for high blood pressure the older you get. Family history and ethnicity Ė the risks for high blood pressure are there in your genes. It runs in families and it is highest in African American women than in any other demographic. Diabetes Ė however, you can improve your diet and exercise, and that will have a positive effect on your diabetes. Chronic kidney disease, adrenal and thyroid disorders Ė these are linked to high blood pressure. Some medications and foods increase blood pressure such as estrogen (the Pill) and phytoestrogens (like soy products). Donít be in such a hurry to lose weight by using an over the counter aid Ė sibutramine is often an ingredient and raises blood pressure. Even some over the counter cough medicine can spell trouble if you are at risk. Ask your VA doctor for advice.
Are you or a woman vet you know and love at risk for hypertension? Do what it takes to live a long and healthy life. Help knock hypertension out of the top three diagnosed problems for women vets.