High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the leading causes of death by stroke or heart attack in the UK. According to Blood Pressure UK, 16 million people in the UK are living with hypertension and 62,000 people die from complications related to the condition every single year.
The problem is that high blood pressure (usually defined as anything over 140/90mmHg) has many different causes and therefore can be hard to tackle. If the latest studies are to be believed, daily stresses such as air pollution and noise pollution can even play a part.
Research published in the European Heart Journal recently found that traffic noise in particular is associated with higher blood pressure. Over the space of nine years, European researchers looked at 41,000 people, none of whom had high blood pressure at the start of the study. By the end of study, 15% had developed hypertension or had begun to take medication to lower their blood pressure.
When researchers then examined levels of traffic near to their homes, it was discovered that people living on particularly noisy streets had a 6% higher chance of developing high blood pressure than those who lived on quiet streets. Higher levels of air pollution were also found to bear a relation to high blood pressure.
Critical responses to this study have argued that many of the cases of hypertension were “self-reported” and not medically measured – therefore casting the findings into greater doubt. However, stress is known to be a contributing factor in high blood pressure. And there’s no denying that daily annoyances like noise pollution can be at the root of the average person’s stress levels.
If you deal with high levels of stress in your daily life and you’re concerned that you might be at risk of high blood pressure, read on. Our guide has everything you need to know.
The Causes of High Blood Pressure
The most common risk factors for/developing high blood pressure are:
- family history of high blood pressure
- advancing age
- being of African or Caribbean descent
- high salt consumption
- lack of exercise
- being overweight or obese
- high alcohol consumption
- being a smoker
- chronic diseases such as diabetes and lupus
- medications such as the combined pill and anti-inflammatories
Interestingly, long-term sleep deprivation is also a risk factor. When we consider that fact in light of the recent European Heart Journal research, we can start to see how something as simple as sleep-disrupting noise pollution could affect our health so negatively.
Lifestyle Changes for Decreasing Blood Pressure
The good news when it comes to hypertension is that medication is not always necessary. In fact, if your blood pressure measures consistently over 140/90mmHg but you are otherwise in good health, it is recommended that you start treatment of your condition with lifestyle changes only.
These lifestyle changes include:
- reducing your salt intake to less than 6g a day (around one teaspoon)
- eating a low-fat diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
- doing more exercise
- reducing your alcohol and caffeine intake
- losing weight
- quitting smoking
- getting more sleep (at least six hours a night)
- reducing your stress levels
Making these kinds of changes can have numerous benefits for your health and wellbeing.
While reducing daily stresses isn’t always easy (particularly if you have a challenging career and busy home life) starting to make the kinds of changes listed above can really make a difference. Exercising alone can improve mood and self-confidence, and can make it far easier to get a good night’s sleep.
Medications for Blood Pressure
If lifestyle changes aren’t sufficient in bringing your blood pressure to a safe level, it is likely that you will be prescribed medication in the form of ACE inhibitors, angiotensin-2 receptor blockers or calcium channel blockers.
It’s important to bear in mind, however, that even if you are prescribed medication you should still make changes to your lifestyle – particularly if you smoke, eat an unhealthy diet or are overweight or obese.