If you are living with high blood pressure, you are not alone. Over 75 million American adults have high blood pressure – that’s 1 in every 3 people!
Our sedentary lifestyles and the abundance of high-calorie, processed foods in our environment have made high blood pressure a common problem. Unfortunately, if not addressed, high blood pressure can increase your risk of developing heart disease.
High blood pressure is usually controlled with medication. However, lifestyle plays an important role in treating high blood pressure. If you take proactive measures to control your high blood pressure, you can possibly avoid, delay, or reduce the need for medication.
Here are some tips to lower your blood pressure:
1. Maintain a healthy weight
Blood pressure and weight are closely related. Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes to control blood pressure. In fact, losing just 10 pounds can make a difference.
In addition to watching your overall weight and BMI, the location of your excess fat is also important. Carrying too much weight around your waistline can put you at greater risk of high blood pressure.
Your doctor can help you determine a healthy waist measurement for you, guide you towards a target weight and create a safe weight loss plan.
2. Exercise regularly
Getting 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days of the week can help lower your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is only slightly elevated, exercise can halt the progression to full-blown high blood pressure.
You don’t necessarily have to go to the gym to get physical activity. Simple aerobic activity, such as walking or doing chores around the house, can help lower blood pressure. Jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing are also great for lowering blood pressure. If you’re not ready for cardiovascular exercise, simply stretching your muscles can help improve your circulation, posture, and ultimately help reduce your blood pressure.
3. Improve your diet
A diet with more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy products, and less saturated fats, cholesterol and artificial sugars can help lower your blood pressure. This is known as the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), and is recommended by the Mayo Clinic. The NIH has PDF with more details on the DASH diet.
Eating high-sodium foods can elevate your blood pressure, so cutting out even a bit of salt from your diet can be beneficial. Restaurant food and prepared foods are notorious for having high amounts of sodium. Cooking for yourself and reading labels on packaged foods can help you be more conscious of how much sodium you are eating.
For other diet options, check out this post from One Medical.
4. Cut back on alcohol
In small amounts, alcohol can help reduce your blood pressure a bit. But if you drink too much alcohol, those benefits are lost. That usually means more than one drink a day for women and men older than age 65, or more than two a day for men over 65. For reference: one drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. In addition to actually raising blood pressure, drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
5. Quit smoking
While the long-term effects of smoking on blood pressure are currently not known, we do know that smoking hurts your overall heart health. Quitting smoking helps improve your cardiovascular health which will help to lower your blood pressure.
6. Manage stress
Chronic stress is actually linked to higher blood pressure, so it’s important to pay attention to your daily stress levels. Exercise can be a great way to release stress. Additionally, other forms of relaxation such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing can also be beneficial in reducing stress and helping to lower blood pressure.
Remember, making these lifestyle changes is a marathon, not a sprint. Gradually improving over time is more likely to lead to success than trying to make a 180 degree change overnight. Setting smaller goals for yourself – like making one healthy choice per day – can be a good first step towards changing your habits in the long run. As always, be sure to reach out to your doctor for help creating and achieving your weight loss and blood pressure goals.