This is a very important question, and it is imperative that each of us are aware of our blood pressure and whether our measurements are consistently too high and need to be lowered — either by lifestyle modification or with medication if needed.
Since 2003, the definition of high blood pressure requiring therapy defined readings of 140 mm Hg and higher for the systolic blood pressure measurement, or readings of 90 mm Hg and higher for the diastolic measurement. As of 2017, high blood pressure is now defined by readings over 130/80 mm Hg.
With this change in the definition, Americans diagnosed with high blood pressure increased from 1 in 3 U.S. adults (32 percent) to nearly half of the U.S. adult population (46 percent). If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, the most important thing for you to do is adopt a healthier lifestyle. Lifestyle modification can dramatically lower blood pressure and may be sufficient to “cure” your high blood pressure. We all have areas in our lives that can be improved on from a health perspective! If your diligent lifestyle changes prove to not be adequate, it is then important to take medications to lower blood pressure until readings under 130/80 mm Hg are reliably obtained.
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Here are my TOP TEN lifestyle modifications PROVEN to lower blood pressure!
1. Exercise regularly:
Regular physical activity, such as 150 minutes a week (or about 30 minutes most days of the week) can lower your blood pressure by 5 to 20 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. It’s important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again. Some examples of aerobic exercise you may try to lower blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. You can also try high-intensity interval training, which involves alternating short bursts of intense activity with recovery periods of lighter activity. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Strive to include strength training exercises at least two days a week.
2. Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline:
Blood pressure often increases as weight increases, so it’s best not to take on extra pounds. 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 even a small amount of weight if you’re overweight or obese can help reduce your blood pressure. In general, you may reduce your blood pressure by 1-4 millimeter of mercury (mm Hg) with each kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of weight you lose. Besides shedding pounds, you generally should also keep an eye on your waistline. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high blood pressure. In general: Men are at risk 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). These numbers vary among ethnic groups. Ask your doctor about a healthy waist measurement for you.
3. Eat a healthy diet:
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 10-12 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
It isn’t easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet:
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.
Consider boosting potassium. Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is food, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. Talk to your doctor about the potassium level that’s best for you.
Be a smart shopper. Read food labels when you shop and stick to your healthy-eating plan when you’re dining out, too.
4. Reduce sodium in your diet:
Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can improve your heart health and reduce blood pressure by 5 -6 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. The effect of sodium intake on blood pressure varies among groups of people. In general, limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less. However, a lower sodium intake — 1,500 mg a day or less — is ideal for most adults.
To decrease sodium in your diet, consider these tips:
Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy. Eat fewer processed foods. Only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in foods. Most sodium is added during processing. Don’t add salt. Just 1 level teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Use herbs or spices to add flavor to your food. Ease into it. If you don’t feel you can drastically reduce the sodium in your diet suddenly, cut back gradually. Your palate will adjust over time.
5. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink:
Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. By drinking alcohol only in moderation — generally one drink a day for women, or two a day for men — you can potentially lower your blood pressure by 4-6 mm Hg. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol. 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.
6. Quit smoking:
Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. Stopping smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. People who quit smoking may live longer than people who never quit smoking.
7. Cut back on caffeine:
The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debated. Caffeine can raise blood pressure up to 10 mm Hg in people who rarely consume it. But people who drink coffee regularly may experience little or no effect on their blood pressure. Although the long-term effects of caffeine on blood pressure aren’t clear, it’s possible blood pressure may slightly increase. 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. Talk to your doctor about the effects of caffeine on your blood pressure.
8. Reduce your stress
Chronic stress may contribute to high blood pressure. More research is needed to determine the effects of chronic stress on 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. If you can’t eliminate all of your stressors, you can at least cope with them in a healthier way. Try to: Change your expectations. For example, plan your day and focus on your priorities. Avoid trying to do too much and learn to say no. Understand there are some things you can’t change or control, but you can focus on how you react to them. Focus on issues you can control and make plans to solve them. If you are having an issue at work, try talking to your manager. If you are having a conflict with your kids or spouse, take steps to resolve it. Avoid stress triggers. Try to avoid triggers when you can. For example, if rush-hour traffic on the way to work causes stress, try leaving earlier in the morning, or take public transportation. Avoid people who cause you stress if possible. Make time to relax and to do activities you enjoy. Take time each day to sit quietly and breathe deeply. Make time for enjoyable activities or hobbies in your schedule, such as taking a walk, cooking or volunteering. Practice gratitude. Expressing gratitude to others can help reduce your stress.
9. 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 home monitoring before you get started. Regular visits with your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is well-controlled, check with your doctor about how often you need to check it. Your doctor may suggest checking it daily or less often. If you’re making any changes in your medications or other treatments, your doctor may recommend you check your blood pressure starting two weeks after treatment changes and a week before your next appointment.
10. 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. If you find you need support beyond your family and friends, consider joining a support group. This may put you in touch with people who can give you an emotional or morale boost and who can offer practical tips to cope with your condition.