Known as “silent killer”, high blood pressure is a common health issue that affects about half of the American adults, as estimated by the American College of Cardiology. Since the blood pressure symptoms are not visible, most people are unaware of the fact that they have high blood pressure. The condition affects their health until the person becomes aware of the disease and takes precautions and treatment as required.
Blood pressure is the force at which blood pumps from the heart into the arteries. A normal blood pressure level is less than 120/80 mm Hg, and when the blood moves through the arteries at a faster rate, the pressure on the tissues in the arteries rises which damages the blood vessels. This is the result of high blood pressure, also called hypertension.
Along with the prescribed medications to keep the blood pressure under control, several other changes in lifestyle can help in keeping the blood pressure down. Some of the ways are:
1. Exercise regularly:
Exercising 30 minutes every day can lower the blood pressure by about 5-8 mm Hg if the blood pressure is high already. Consistency is important as the blood pressure can rise again if you stop exercising. Physical exercises can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels. There are many aerobic exercises to try including walking, joking, cycling, swimming, or dancing. You can try high-intensity interval training or strength training for reducing the blood pressure. The best choice would be to consult the doctor about which and how much of the exercise would be considered healthy.
2. Healthy diet:
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products can lower your blood pressure by 11 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. This is also known as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
- Keep a food diary: Write everything from what you’re eating, how much, when, and why, even if it’s for a few days only. It’ll reveal the true eating habits.
- Boosting potassium: Potassium can reduce the effect of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is in fruits and vegetables.
- Smart customer: Read food labels while shopping to pick the healthier food and choose something healthy and while you’re dining out.
3. Reduce sodium intake:
Reduction in sodium can improve your heart health and reduce blood pressure by 5-6 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. 1500mg is an ideal amount of sodium consumed each day.
To decrease sodium:
- Read labels: Check for sodium content in the foods and beverages that you usually purchase and look for their alternatives with lower sodium content.
- Eat less processed foods: Food that is processed too much has a higher sodium content as only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in foods. Most of the sodium is added while the food is being processed.
- Don’t use salt: 1 teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Substitute salt with some other herbs or spices to add taste to the food.
4. Reduce stress:
Chronic stress or occasional stress may lead to high blood pressure, especially if you react to stress through smoking, alcohol, or eating unhealthy. Take some time to analyze the situation and figure out what caused the stress in the first place. Try to work on how you can eliminate or reduce stress.
- Avoid Stress triggers, such as rush-hour traffic. Instead, try leaving a little early to avoid the rush. Avoid other triggers as well, whether it’s a person or a thing.
- Practice gratitude, as it can help to reduce stress.
- Find some time for yourself every day and do all the things that you like to do, such as cooking, cycling, sketching, or anything else.
- Focus on the issues that you can control and understand that there are a few things you can’t change, but you can change the attitude towards them.
5. Shed off the extra pounds:
Blood pressure often increases with weight. Obesity and blood pressure are linked to each other like too much weight can cause breathing disruption while sleeping which further raises the blood pressure. If the person is obese, losing even a small amount of weight makes the situation better. Losing weight is considered one of the most effective lifestyle changes in controlling blood pressure. Too much weight around the waist can also increase the risk of high blood pressure.
6. Alcohol and smoking:
Smoking increases the blood pressure for several minutes once you light up that cigarette. Quitting smoking can keep blood pressure normal and reduce the risk of heart disease as well.
Alcohol has its benefits as well as side effects. Drinking at a normal amount may offer heart-health benefits but when the count keeps on rising, alcohol can cause lots of health issues, including high blood pressure. Too much drinking can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.