Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in Mexico; there were 128,731 deaths in 2015. One of the risk factors that contribute to the development of these diseases is hypertension, which is defined as a blood pressure above 140/90mm Hg (systolic/diastolic pressure). Hypertension might lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure or death. In our country, a quarter of the population (25.5%) has hypertension. However, this disease can be prevented.
Adult lifestyle (19 to 59 years old) makes them more prone to chronic diseases, such as hypertension. Both excess weight as a consequence of an unhealthy diet and the lack of opportunity to exercise contribute to this matter.
It is necessary to provide relevant guidance on lifestyle changes in order to prevent hypertension, in addition to detection, diagnosis and appropriate treatment to each case. First and foremost, these interventions must focus on population at greater cardiovascular risk: old age, excess weight, smokers or a family history of these diseases.
Lifestyle changes to prevent hypertension include:
- Maintain a normal weight and reduce it if needed: with less sedentary activities, increased physical activity and reduced food portions. A weight reduction from 5 kg improves blood pressure level.
- Have a healthier diet: focused on a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and legumes, low-fat dairy, lean meats and vegetable oils, avoiding processed products.
- Lower sodium to <2,000 mg per day (5 grams of salt): reducing intake of processed foods and avoiding excess addition to homemade foods. In Mexico, average salt intake is 7 to 9 grams per day.
- Practice regular physical activity, at least 30 minutes per day 5 days a week: of moderate intensity, pleasurable in order to continue long-term.
- Limit alcohol consumption: 2 drinks per day for men and 1 for women.
- Avoid tobacco products: and exposure to second-hand smoke. If possible, stop smoking.
- Manage stress: by having enough hours of sleep, practicing exercise or meditation, besides having meaningful relationships with family and friends.
Better results are achieved by making one or more changes. As the campaign of World Heart Day (29th September 2017) said: small changes can make a difference.
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