High blood pressure: Lifestyle changes to reduce reading
High blood pressure affects more than one in four people in the UK yet many people will not know they have it. The condition, whereby the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body, is not usually accompanied by symptoms. The lack of warning signs makes high blood pressure highly pernicious – if left untreated, it can hike your risk of having a heart attack.
In rare circumstances, a consistently high reading may cause the body to undergo perceptible changes.
There have been reports that a chronic cough may signal the presence of high blood pressure.
A study published in the European Respiratory Journal aimed to quantify the prevalence of this symptom in patients with hypertension.
For the study, 68 patients were recruited from the chronic cough clinic at MFT Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester.
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Gender and age matched control subjects were recruited from hospital staff, individuals accompanying patients at clinic visits and from local social groups.
Smokers, those with cardiovascular conditions except for hypertension, and those with respiratory disease, other than cough in the patient group, were excluded.
Hypertensive subjects had taken their antihypertensive medication prior to testing. Demographics, hypertensive status, and seated blood pressure and heart rate were recorded.
At the end of the study, there were no significant differences in age, gender split, blood pressure or heart rate between the groups.
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However, 17 of the chronic cough subjects were hypertensive, compared to only three of the control subjects.
In their concluding remarks, the researchers noted that “chronic cough is potentially associated with an increased risk of hypertension”.
“This may be a result of the cardiovascular consequences of repeated bouts of coughing, or possibly autonomic dysfunction in this group,” they said.
Autonomic dysfunction, also known as neuropathy, occurs when the nerves that control involuntary bodily functions are damaged.
How to respond
The only way to determine whether you have high blood pressure is to get your blood pressure tested.
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, lifestyle changes are usually recommended to bring your reading down.
According to the NHS, cutting down on the amount of salt in your food and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables can help to lower high blood pressure.
Cutting down on salt is particularly important because salt raises your blood pressure.
To keep the risk at bay, you should aim to eat less than six grams (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful, advises the NHS.
“Eating a low-fat diet that includes lots of fibre, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables also helps lower blood pressure,” advises the health body.
Taking regular exercise can also have a positive effect on high blood pressure.
According to UK public health guidelines, adults should do at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.
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