A staggering 1 out of 3 Americans is estimated to have hypertension, or high blood pressure, and only half of them truly have it under control according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A key risk factor for heart disease, high blood pressure is an unhealthy increase in the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body. Overtime, this magnified force can weaken the heart and arteries, leading to damage and plaque buildup.
Have you looked at a blood pressure chart lately to see if your own bp readings align with medically recommended standards? If you work in an office or at a desk all day, and are worried about high blood pressure, don’t miss these common risk factors and expert tips:
Sitting at an office desk all day working on the computer? Sedentary careers that cultivate a routine of sitting all day can lead to poor body positioning habits like slumping, slouching, craning the neck and head forward, as well as crossing the legs. In addition to potentially causing chronic back and neck pain, this type of poor posture places extra pressure on the lungs and heart, diminishes breathing potential, and stresses internal joints and muscles making the heart work harder and harder to circulate blood.
From long, traffic-filled commutes to tight deadlines and potentially less than ideal working conditions, myriad factors can contribute to stress in the workplace. Why does your blood pressure rise when you’re stressed out? Medically speaking, when you feel stressed your body produces extra hormones, like cortisol, which in turn naturally raise heart rate and narrow blood vessels. This leads to a temporary increase in high blood pressure, which in combination with other risk factors, may have longterm effects.
Working at an office can definitely make it hard to eat healthy during the day. Running out the door to beat traffic often means skipping breakfast and not packing yourself healthy snacks or lunch. Once in the office, you may be more likely to purchase saltier processed and packaged foods to munch on than fresh fruits and vegetables. An imbalanced diet combined with overconsumption of sodium is a huge risk factor for developing high blood pressure.
In addition to poor posture habits, a desk job may be preventing you from getting the 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise you need each day to manage a healthy weight and strengthen your heart to prevent high blood pressure. Long commutes to and from the office can make slipping in a quick workout in the morning or evening more difficult, and common office stressors may lead to other exercise-inhibiting behaviors like smoking, poor diet, and couchsurfing when you get home.
What Can You Do to Combat Hypertension at the Office?
Just because your career is largely office-based and involves significant amounts of sitting, that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate health-boosting practices and activities into your day:
Stand Up: Avoiding spending too much time at once sitting in the same place. Get a standing desk which raises up and down and let’s you work from a standing height, or try sitting on a stability ball at your desk to increase the amount of energy and work you put into sitting. Get up every 30 minutes or so to walk around, stretch, and grab some water.
Walk More: Park further away from the door to increase your steps into and out of the office, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and ask colleagues to walk laps with you during a meeting instead of sitting in a conference room. Walking more increases your heart rate and helps you burn calories during the work day.
Pack Your Lunch: Make healthier choices when it comes to diet by packing your own healthy lunch and snacks to take into work. You will avoid giving into sweet and salty cravings, as well as limit your consumption of processed and packaged foods.
De-Stress: Foster your own stress relief at work with small, positive things that help you relax and calm down. It may be having a playlist at the ready to listen to when you’re feeling stressed, or getting an aroma diffuser for your office to fill your environment with stress-relieving scents like lavender or sandalwood.
Hypertension plays a critical role in the heart disease epidemic, and is largely preventable. Don’t let your office job turn you into a statistic.