Adopting a healthy lifestyle is a critical step in preventing and treating hypertension. According to the American Heart Association, lifestyle changes may lower blood pressure without the use of prescription medications.
Mayo Clinic recommends these 10 lifestyle changes that you can make to lower your blood pressure and control hypertension:
- Lose extra weight, watch your waistline.
Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure. In general, men are at risk of high blood pressure if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (102 centimeters). Women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (89 centimeters).
- Exercise regularly.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. The best types of exercise for lowering blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure.
- Eat a healthy diet.
Eat a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and low on saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Reduce sodium in your diet.
Read food labels and, if possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy. Eat fewer processed foods. Don’t add salt; instead, use herbs or spices to add flavor to your food.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
Alcohol can potentially lower your blood pressure by 2 to 4 mm Hg. But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol. Keep alcohol intake to one drink a day for women and for men older than age 65, or 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.
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.
- Quit smoking.
Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. Quitting smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal.
- Cut back on caffeine.
The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still unclear. 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.
Although the effects of chronic caffeine ingestion on blood pressure aren’t clear, the possibility of a slight increase in blood pressure exists.
To see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check your blood 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. Talk to your doctor about the effects of caffeine on your blood pressure.
- Reduce your stress.
Chronic stress is an important contributor to high blood pressure. 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. Try these stress management tips:
- Learn to say no and to live within manageable limits. Try to learn to accept things you can’t change.
- Know your stress triggers. Avoid whatever triggers you can.
- Make time to relax and to do activities you enjoy. Take 15 to 20 minutes a day to sit quietly and breathe deeply.
- Practice gratitude. Expressing gratitude to others can help reduce stressful thoughts.
- Monitor your blood pressure at home and see your doctor regularly.
Home monitoring can help you keep tabs on your blood pressure, make certain your lifestyle changes are working, and alert you and your doctor to potential health complications. Blood pressure monitors are available widely and without a prescription. Talk to your doctor about blood pressure home monitoring before you get started.
- Get support.
Supportive family and friends can help improve your health. They may encourage you to take care of yourself, drive you to the doctor’s office or embark on an exercise program with you to keep your blood pressure low.
– Eric Michael Santos, Medical Observer