Blood pressure is the pressure the blood produces against the artery walls when it is pumped through the body by the heart. When this pressure gets too high, and stays high, it damages the body and can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. High blood pressure is often referred to as hypertension.
When you have your blood pressure taken, the results will contain two numbers. The top number is the systolic blood pressure, which is the force exerted on the arteries when the heart pumps. The bottom number, or diastolic blood pressure, is the amount of force produced when the heart is resting between beats. Only one of these numbers needs to be classified as too high to be diagnosed with high blood pressure.
High blood pressure has no symptoms, so it is important to have it checked regularly to ensure that you are within a healthy range. The National Institutes of Health classify normal blood pressure as having a systolic value less than 120 and a diastolic less than 80. Blood pressure fluctuates when you are awake, when you sleep, and in response to stress. If your doctor determines that your blood pressure is staying above this normal level consistently, he or she may diagnose you with prehypertension. This means that your blood pressure reading is 120-139 (systolic) or 80-89 (diastolic). Being prehypertensive means that you are at risk for developing hypertension unless you make changes to prevent it. A blood pressure that measures 140 (systolic) or 90 (diastolic) or above is considered hypertension.
While your doctor may prescribe medication to help control your blood pressure, it is also important that you make lifestyle changes. In fact, a healthy lifestyle has been found to help delay or prevent a rise in blood pressure that occurs naturally with aging. Eating a healthy diet with fewer than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight are all factors that contribute to maintaining normal blood pressure.
Everyone experiences some stress at work whether it comes from a deadline, meeting a quota, or as a result of difficult coworkers. Problems arise when this stress becomes too much to manage and begins to influence long-term health. According the the Stress in America Survey from the American Psychological Association, 65 percent of Americans say work is a top source of stress.
Work stress can’t be completely eliminated. In fact, a manageable amount of stress helps to keep us motivated. But in order to keep stress from building to unhealthy levels, it’s important to create a plan to identify what causes you stress and how you will manage your reaction to it.
A messy, unorganized office can lead to feelings of stress and lack of control. When you organize files and purge unnecessary items, not only will you feel more in control of your work, but less time will be spent searching for things, which can improve productivity. Make your office an orderly space where you feel relaxed and not frazzled.
Prioritize and delegate
You likely feel pulled in many different directions at work with an endless to-do list. Prioritize your tasks each day. Create timelines for longer-term projects so that the tasks you need to complete are clearly outlined. A clearer picture of exactly what needs to be done will allow you to let go of frivolous tasks that keep you from accomplishing more important duties. You can then delegate those tasks to ease your workload and reduce the unnecessary stress that comes with them.
Talk it out
If you have too much to do, admit it. Talk out your work duties with your supervisor or team. Determine a plan to improve productivity and prioritize the most important tasks. Discussing your workload and your stress levels is often all it takes to get the help you need.
Deadlines and difficult coworkers can take you from relaxed to stressed in minutes. Take time to practice relaxation, which can help improve your stress response during challenging situations. Five to ten minutes of deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, or visualization are easy ways to remain calm. The more you practice these techniques, the better you will get at managing stressful situations.
Find stress relievers
There may be little you can do with the stress that piles up at work, but you do have control of how you let this stress impact your daily life. It’s important to find stress-relieving activities that help clear your mind and give you a mental break from work. Exercise is an essential stress reliever. Whether you push yourself through a 20-minute high intensity interval workout or set out for a leisurely stroll, moving more helps to reduce stress. Turning to unhealthy foods in response to stress only results in sluggishness and weight gain that leads to even more stress. Choosing nutritious foods will keep you energized to face your work challenges. Adequate sleep and taking time for relaxing activities (like yoga, reading, and time with friends) are also important to reduce stress and improve health.
Use your time off
Many people fail to use time off because they are unable to take an extended vacation. But while a week at the beach is nice, short breaks can be equally beneficial. Simply using a vacation day on a Friday or Monday for a long weekend, or taking off an afternoon mid-week will give you a break from your work environment and allow you to enjoy a stress-relieving activity. Take advantage of this time, no matter how short, to create a healthy balance between work and time for yourself.
The farmers market is one of the best resources for healthy foods. But if you are new to the scene, a visit can be overwhelming. There are a few things to keep in mind that will help you find the foods you want and get the best deals.
Choose your visit wisely.
The best time to attend the farmers market depends on how you would like to experience it. Arrive at opening and you will have the best selection and more time to talk with the vendors. If you like an upbeat atmosphere and don’t mind mingling with the crowds, aim for mid-morning or a couple hours after the market opens. If you are looking for good deals, head to the market just before it closes. The selection may be limited, but many vendors discount items to clear out their booths.
Take a full lap.
Take a walk around the whole market before you commit to a purchase. This allows you to research prices and prevents settling on an item that isn’t exactly what you want. Once you see what the full market has to offer, you can select the best quality for the best price.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The vendors are hoping to establish a relationship with you so that you will become a repeat customer. If you have questions about how a food was grown, how long it can be stored, or the best way to cook it, speak up and ask.
Look for bulk deals.
Often the more you buy, the better price you will get. Many vendors offer a set price and then discount the price if you buy 2 or 3 of the same item. If you don’t see these prices posted, ask if there are any bulk discounts available.
Know your cooking habits.
It’s easy to get overly excited at the market, which often results in buying more food than you can eat. Have an idea of how you will store and use the items you buy. Also look for options that decrease your time in the kitchen. For example, many vendors sell pre-chopped kale and bags of mixed greens that are perfect for salads and save on time spent preparing the meal.
Be open to new foods.
Take a sense of adventure and curiosity with you to the market. Ask about foods you are unfamiliar with and consider buying at least one new thing each week. Tasting new fruits and vegetables broadens your knowledge of healthy foods and will keep your eating plan from becoming boring.
Carry small bills.
Unless you buy all your produce from one vendor, you will be spending a few dollars here and a few dollars there at the market. Make it easy on yourself and on sellers by carrying small bills. This is especially important if you shop first thing in the morning before vendors have made sales that bring in smaller change.
Bring the right bags.
A few purchases at the market and your hands will be full. Choose bags that will allow you to easily carry produce while you continue to shop. Consider a backpack for heavier items like root vegetables. Place other vegetables in bags that can be carried on your shoulders. Bring flat-bottomed, sturdy bags for delicate foods like eggs and berries. If the weight of your purchases is a concern, consider a small rolling cart to make your shopping experience more pleasant.
Researchers are increasingly recognizing the importance of a good night’s sleep in helping us achieve our overall fitness and wellness goals. Watch out for these 5 things that can keep you from getting a restful night of sleep.
Exposure to bright light during the hours before bedtime can disrupt your sleep. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, bright light in the late evenings influences your internal clock, which can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. Whether it’s a brightly lit room, a computer screen, or the television, these things can affect your sleep quality long after you turn them off. Create a nightly ritual that gets you away from bright lights and promotes relaxation to prepare you for a good night’s rest.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress or anxiety that results from daily concerns can have a big impact on your sleep patterns. When your mind races with worries, it is difficult to fall asleep and you experience sleep that is less deep. Find ways to relieve stress and anxiety to prepare for bedtime. Exercise regularly, jot down your thoughts in a journal, and meditate.
Medications and Supplements
If you take medications or supplements, you might be consuming substances that disrupt your sleep without knowing it. Some supplements contain the stimulants ginseng and guarana, which have an effect that is similar to caffeine. Some headache and cold medications also contain caffeine and other stimulants. Medications like steroids and beta-blockers can also keep you awake at night. Check ingredient labels closely and talk with your doctor if you suspect that a prescription medication is disrupting your sleep.
Overdoing It On Water
Staying hydrated is important, but too much water before bedtime can mean numerous bathroom breaks throughout the night. Drink your water earlier in the day, and limit your intake of high-water foods (like fruits) a few hours before bedtime.
Late Night Alcohol
You may feel like a glass of wine or beer makes you feel drowsy, helping you sleep better. It’s true that alcoholic drinks may make you drowsy enough to fall asleep quickly, but once your blood alcohol level drops 2 to 3 hours later, you are likely to wake up. This prevents you from falling into the deep sleep that helps you wake up feeling rested.
Motivation can fluctuate as you work towards your goals. Each day, you are changing. As a result, the same things that motivated you in the beginning may no longer spark your interest. If you find that your excitement for exercise and healthy eating is dwindling, it’s time to find a new source for motivation.
Pick an Unfamiliar Goal
Losing weight, toning up, and gaining muscle are familiar goals for most people. Unfortunately, they are rarely enough to keep you going, even after seeing progress. A goal that forces you to step out of your comfort zone is what you need to truly get excited about healthy activities. Sign up for a special cooking class or technique like making sushi, Thai cooking, gluten-free baking, or vegetarian cooking. Pick an exercise that you've always wanted to to try, and set a goal that finally makes you take the first step. Conquer a hike on a well-known trail, or add swimming and biking to your routine and sign up for a triathlon.
Seek Out Group Support
Everyone needs support to stick with healthy habits. You don’t have to exercise with someone everyday, but checking in with others and discussing your progress keeps you motivated and on track. Sharing tips and tricks with others and gathering new ideas keeps things interesting. Find groups that meet regularly to hike, play a sport, or join a health and fitness book club. Sharing your success helps you refocus on what is important so that you can maintain your progress.
Plan a Healthy Month on the Calendar
Brainstorm some healthy activities that you enjoy. Create a calendar, and assign one of these activities to each day. They might include things like do yoga for 30 minutes in the morning, relax and read a book for 15 minutes, stretch at the office, or cook a new vegetable. These mini-goals will keep you looking forward to something new each day. Ask friends to join you, and consider adding a healthy reward for accomplishing everything at the end of each week or the month.
Book a Self-care Day
Plan a day from start to finish that includes all of the healthy activities you love. Put it on your calendar, and reserve this time for yourself to reflect on your progress and your goals. A healthy day might include taking an early morning nature walk followed by a visit to your favorite coffee shop for reading. Next, make a healthy lunch at home and then schedule a massage, or do something that makes you laugh, like seeing the latest comedy. End the day with a healthy dinner and a calming meditation or yoga practice. A day spent taking care of yourself can refresh your outlook and renew your motivation.
Make a Change
Think of one change you can make that would switch up your normal routine. Maybe you swap evening workouts for morning workouts, add a group exercise class to your program, or eat fish at least three nights a week. These minor changes can get you out of a rut and renew your excitement about a healthy lifestyle.
Cleanse and Purge
This kind of cleansing and purging has nothing to do with your eating plan. It’s about simplifying your life so that you can focus on the things that improve your health. Donate old clothes that no longer fit, and get rid of old tennis shoes that are worn out. Clutter can cause stress, which influences emotional eating. Clean your office, rearrange your workout room, and get organized. A fresh environment can lift your mood and renew your motivation.