High blood pressure is extremely prevalent in the American population, especially in the workplace. Unfortunately, its symptoms are also hard to recognize and so it largely goes undetected until it causes a catastrophic event. More than twenty percent of people with high blood pressure are unaware of their condition. With a combination of heart-healthy behaviors and monitoring through routine health checks, you can understand and mitigate the risks of high blood pressure.

Helping Employees Understand Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is a measure of how hard your blood pushes against the walls of your arteries. Blood pressure that is too high can harm your blood vessels, but since there are no symptoms for high blood pressure, most people discover the condition only after routine medical exams or visiting their doctor for an unrelated reason. For those unfamiliar with the condition, the American Heart Association is a great place to learn about prevention and management of high blood pressure.

High blood pressure can lead to damage of the heart and coronary arteries (including heart attacks), stroke, kidney damage, vision loss, erectile dysfunction, and loss of memory. While managing blood pressure takes a lifelong commitment, there are a few things you can do daily to decrease your risk of suffering the effects of high blood pressure.

Clock out. A study by the University of California found that the risk of hypertension increases by fifteen percent for people who put in more than forty-one hours in the office. While it is impossible for some of us to cap the workweek at 40 hours or less, try leaving work at a decent hour at least a few times per week. You eat healthier and exercise more when you give yourself time away from the desk.

Don’t stress about it. Mindfulness exercises like concentrating on your breathing and consciously relaxing will reduce your stress and positively impact your blood pressure. If you can’t get away from the office at a reasonable time, try at least taking a mental break by getting comfortable, closing your eyes, breathing deeply, and imagining yourself in a relaxing and calming environment.

For others, a more physical break from the office is more desirable. Take a short walk to release endorphins, breath fresh air, and refresh your mind.

Eat chocolate. Dark chocolate contains flavanols that make blood vessels more elastic. Just a half-ounce of chocolate containing 70 percent cocoa can decrease blood pressure.

Other healthy behaviors like eating nutritious food, decreasing salt intake, limiting alcohol consumption, and staying away from cigarettes will have outsized effects on blood pressure. The most important thing to remember is that the signs of high blood pressure can go undetected, and the only way to understand your health status is to have regular check-ups at your doctor’s office or health center.

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