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7 Things I Changed to Combat High Blood Pressure [Hypertension]

7 Things I Changed to Combat High Blood Pressure [Hypertension]

High blood pressure or ‘Hypertension’ was the main reason for my stroke, here is what I am doing to keep it under control.

Things I changed to combat high blood pressure:

  • Losing weight
  • Exercise
  • Healthy diet
  • Reduce salt
  • Reduce stress
  • Better sleep
  • Monitor BP

Have a look online for what to do to reduce your blood pressure and every list will have quit smoking and quit/reduce your drinking. You’ll notice that my list has neither. I quite drinking five years before the stroke and I’d [finally] quit smoking four months previously. Too little too late perhaps as far as smoking was concerned but it goes to show that you can still have a stroke having quit both drinking and smoking.

The reasons I was given in the Spanish hospital was that my cholesterol was too high and my blood pressure was through the roof – 228/126 when I went into intensive care. So, with that said I decided it was time for some further changes in my life and it is these that I have listed below.

Losing weight

Losing weight for me was a big one. I’m a big guy, 6ft 2″, broad and 17st so yeah I know I could lose a few kilos here and there. After coming out of hospital I lost 10kg in the first three months just through regular exercise and a massive change in diet. The thing is with weight is that it can go hand in hand with higher blood pressure so losing weight was top of my list.

Exercise

Exercise was something I took up on a more regular basis after coming out of hospital. I regarded myself as fairly fit anyway especially having stopped drinking and smoking [both of which made a noticeable difference] but I knew I had to do more. In the early days it was tough and still is to a certain extent with a weakened left side, little and often is the name of the game.

Exercise is something that you work into your lifestyle so when you have a routine it’s not that much of a problem. When you move country like we did things go all out of alignment and it’s far too easy to forget about keeping on top of your fitness. Throw a broken ankle into the mix and that makes things a little more difficult again! I am itching to get out and walk again, even if it’s just in the garden.

Having a healthy diet

As soon I got home from hospital my diet changed. My wife, being the superstar that she is was already looking at alternatives and planned some new, healthier meals using more fruit and vegetables, pulses and less meat. I am a true carnivor and always have been so a predominantly vegetarian diet did not fill me with joy but… I needed to do everything I could to keep myself fit and healthy.

Things I changed to combat high blood pressure
Porridge hot or cold every day

I now eat meat once a week, sometimes twice if we make enough for a second meal of leftovers the next day. While others are having a ham sarnie mine will be a salad one – a big one and it is very surprising how many great veggie recipes there are out there like curries and suchlike.

I have since grown not to miss the meat and have even suggested not buying meat on occasion when I am enjoying vegetarian dishes this much. Below are some vegetarian examples of what we like to make [and experiment with].

  • Huevos rancheros
  • Lentil curry
  • Chilli con carne [made with soya + generous amount of chilli]
  • Posh baked beans on toast [with mountains of garlic]
  • Spag bol [made with soya and plenty of garlic/herbs]
  • Bean ‘thing’ [no idea what the real name is but a cannellini bean casserole]
  • Oven baked chickpeas dusted with curry powder [quick snack]
  • Baked potato with tuna/various fillings

Being mindful: It is easy to allow bad habits to sip back in like the odd bar of chocolate which then becomes three of four across the course of a week. Crisps are too easy for a quick snack as well so I always try to exercise some self discipline and remind myself of my time in hospital whenever unhealthy food presents itself.

Reduce salt

Salt increases blood pressure so I stopped putting salt on my food, simple as that.

At first food will taste different, everything that I usually sprinkled loads of salt on like a chicken and mayo sarnie, pork chops or pretty much everything tasted bland like something was missing. Salt is a flavour enhancer but it’s not healthy plus you get enough salt naturally from food anyway without piling more on. In time I got used to enjoying my food without salt and now can’t believe how much salt I use to put on.

After a while you’ll begin to notice how salty some foods are, even bread and you’ll wonder how you ever ate it.

Reduce stress

One of the things I changed to combat high blood pressure was to reduce my stress levels. Getting out of Spain was categorically the best move in acheiving this and while I do still become stressed over certain things it’s not constant like it was living over there.

I do meditate in the mornings about three times a week, just for ten minutes or so and it does actually make a difference over time. I also listen to chilled out music in the evening. The main one for me is not to react in the same way I did prior to the stroke, I was stressed out, wound up like a top so even the smallest issue seemed far bigger that it was.

Things I changed to combat high blood pressure
Being outside reduces stress

They say stress is a killer and I can believe it – stress contributes to high blood pressure. There are certain I do to help reduce stress at work like planning my day and making sure that there is enough time to do everything I need to do. Taking my time tackling issues and being mindful that getting stressed won’t help anyone least of all me.

Better sleep

Sleep is something I had trouble with before the stroke. After coming from an unacceptably noisy Spanish hospital however I slept like a log for a good couple of weeks, this was my body putting itself right. Since then I have slept well, going to bed early around 8.00pm is my normal and after 15 minutes reading that’s me out like a light.

Tiredness and fatigue are ever present, too long on the computer, reading, concentrating or feeling anxious over the following day for example can make me so tired I have to go to bed even earlier!

Monitor blood pressure

One of the first things my wife did was buy a blood pressure machine. They are available online or at the chemist etc and are a great piece of kit to have for two reasons:

1. A blood pressure machine will give you peace of mind, just taking your blood pressure once a day or every few days lets you know that everything is in check and okay.

2. Writing down your BP readings regularly is particularly useful because your doctor/GP/stroke specialist will ask for them at some point. If like me you felt as though you were taking too much medication then your doctor may suggest dropping a pill – monitoring your BP is essential to keep track of any changes in your meds. DO NOT STOP TAKING MEDICATION WITHOUT YOUR DOCTORS ADVICE.

The fear of having a second stroke

The fear of having a second stroke is very real, the first experience scared me to death, I knew nothing about stroke at the time but when I came out of hospital I hit the internet and did some research as well as speaking to specialists when we returned to the UK.

my cholesterol was too high and my blood pressure was through the roof – 228/126 when I went into intensive care

The risk of stroke is higher in those, like me who have already had one so it’s important that I know within myself that I am doing everything to prevent that from happening again or at the very least reducing the risk. A second stroke also tends to be worse which can be worrying and is no good for your blood pressure.

I try not to think about these things and instead focus on the positives and everything I am doing to keep fit and healthy. When medical professionals ask about the steps I am taking I tell them the truth, there is no point in lying to them or to myself, having a stroke changed my life and there is no way I want to wind up in hospital again.

Resources:

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Mac

K90overland is Mac and Gayle, they lived in Andalucia for 19 years before moving back to the UK. Overlanding since 2019 the pair have built up a 'budget rig' and now enjoy a relaxed approach to discovering Scotland and the north of England.

Mac

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