Lifestyle plays an important role in treating your high blood pressure. Here are 10 lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure and keep it that way!
1. Weight Loss
- Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight also can cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea), which further raises your blood pressure.
- Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure. Losing just 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) can help reduce your blood pressure!
- People who are slowly gaining weight can either gradually increase the level of physical activity (toward the equivalent of 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity), or reduce caloric intake, or both, until their weight is stable.
The two essentials to maintaining a healthy weight are:
- Moving Often
- Eating well
2. Move Often!
- Even moderately intense physical activity, such as brisk walking, is beneficial when done regularly for a total of 30 minutes or longer at least 5 days a week.
- Regular physical activity can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). It's important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again.
- If you have slightly high blood pressure (prehypertension), exercise can help you avoid developing full-blown hypertension. If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels.
- The best types of exercise for lowering blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. Strength training also can help. Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program.
3. Eat Healthy!
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg.
Keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat, even for just a week, can shed surprising light on your true eating habits. Monitor what you eat, how much, when and why.
Be a smart shopper. Read food labels when you shop and stick to your healthy-eating plan when you're dining out, too.
Aim to eat a diet that's rich in:
- Whole-grain, high-fiber foods
- Fat-free and low-fat or 1 percent dairy products
- Skinless poultry and lean meats
- Fish, especially fatty fish containing omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon, trout and herring (eat at least twice a week)
4. Reduce sodium in your diet
- Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can reduce blood pressure by 2 to 8 mm Hg.
- In general, limit sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less. However, a lower sodium intake — 1,500 mg a day or less — is appropriate for people with greater salt sensitivity.
- Try reading food labels, eating fewer processed foods, and avoiding the temptation to add salt to food.
5. Limit alcohol
- Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. In small amounts, it can potentially lower your blood pressure by 2 to 4 mm Hg.
- Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
- Remember- generally more than one drink a day for women and for men older than age 65, or more than two a day for men age 65 and younger. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
6. Stop smoking
- Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish.
- People who quit smoking, regardless of age, have substantial increases in life expectancy.
- There are a wide variety of support programs to help you stop! Support systems are very helpful.
7. Cut Caffeine
- The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debated. Caffeine can raise blood pressure by as much as 10 mm Hg in people who rarely consume it, but there is little to no strong effect on blood pressure in habitual coffee drinkers.
- However, watch your caffeine intake. High amounts of caffeine disrupt your sleep, which can increase blood pressure if you are chronically sleep deprived.
- To see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a caffeinated beverage. If your blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 mm Hg, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine.
8. Reduce your stress
- Although stress does not clearly cause heart disease, it can play a role in general wellness. Practicing new lifestyle habits sometimes requires clearing out the mental clutter. When you can turn down the stress response, you can tune in to good health.
- Chronic stress is an important contributor to high blood pressure. Occasional stress also can contribute to high blood pressure if you react to stress by eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol or smoking.
- Take some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as work, family, finances or illness. Once you know what's causing your stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress.
9. Monitor your blood pressure at home and see your doctor regularly
- Home monitoring can help you keep tabs on your blood pressure, and give you feedback on whether or not your lifestyle changes are working on a daily basis. Blood pressure monitors are available widely and without a prescription. Talk to your doctor about home monitoring before you get started.
- Regular visits with your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure. If your blood pressure isn't well-controlled, your doctor will likely want to see you more frequently.
10. Get support
- Build a support system! Family and friends can help improve your health. They may encourage you to take care of yourself especially when trying to choose healthy foods and starting an exercise program to keep your blood pressure low.
Whether you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, or are concerned because you have that you could soon have high blood pressure, adopt a heart healthy lifestyle now! This will lower your blood pressure, prevent the development of high blood pressure, enhance the effectiveness of medications if you are taking them, and lower your risk of heart attack, heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease! Start now!