High blood pressure is the leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Long-term high blood pressure has been shown to increase the likelihood of an individual developing cardiovascular disease. Other complications include:
- poor circulation
- damage to the heart muscle and tissue
- increased risk of heart attack
- increased risk of stroke
High blood pressure is also one of the five most prevalent chronic health conditions occurring alongside Multiple Sclerosis. Studies have found that people living with multiple sclerosis plus comorbid chronic health conditions like high blood pressure experience a decreased quality of life and increased incidence or disability. Reducing your modifiable risk factors and controlling your blood pressure will improve your overall health and quality of life with multiple sclerosis.
Modifiable Risk Factors For High Blood Pressure Include:
- Lack of Physical Activity
- High Sodium Diet
- Excess Weight
- Drinking Too Much Alcohol
Tips To Control Blood Pressure:
Know Your Numbers
Most people will want to stay below 140/90, but your doctor will tell you what your personal target should be.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
Being overweight increases your chances of developing high blood pressure. Excess weight increases the strain on the heart, raises blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It can also make diabetes more likely to develop and can contribute to disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea) which further raises your blood pressure. Losing as little as 10 to 20 pounds can help lower your blood pressure and your heart disease risk. Read more about obesity and MS here.
Eat A Healthy Balanced Diet
A healthy diet includes a balance of nutrient dense lean proteins, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates from a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grains and beans. Limit processed and convenience foods with high sodium, fat and added sugars. This pattern of eating will nourish your body and reduce your risk for comorbid health conditions.
Reduce Sodium Intake
Diets high in sodium have long been associated with increased blood pressure. Recent research suggests that high sodium diets may also increase MS disease activity. Eliminating the salt-shaker is a good start but will not be enough to reduce your intake of salt. More than 75% of the salt in the American diet comes from processed, packaged and restaurant foods. Read more about sodium and MS here.
Inactivity can result in numerous risk factors associated with heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, decreased bone density and other chronic health conditions. Regular exercise helps with overall well-being, improves strength, improves bladder and bowel function, improves cognition, improves mood and outlook, helps to maintain a healthy weight and improves sleep quality. Aim for at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. Read more about MS and exercise here.
Alcohol In Moderation, If At All
Heavy alcohol use is bad for your health. It can increase blood pressure, cause heart disease, contribute to high triglycerides, cancer and other diseases, obesity, alcoholism, and accidents. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation; two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
Eat better, move your body, feel better.
- American Heart Association
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society
- Marrie RA, Elliott L, Marriott J, Cossoy M, Blanchard J, Leung S, Yu N. Effect of comorbidity on mortality in multiple sclerosis. Neurology. 2015 Jul 21;85(3):240-7
- Marrie RA, Rudick R, Horwitz R, Cutter G, Tyry T, Campagnolo D, Vollmer T. Vascular comorbidity is associated with more rapid disability progression in multiple sclerosis. Neurology. 2010 Mar 30;74(13):1041-7.