Lifestyle plays an important role in treating high blood pressure. If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you may avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication. Here are some lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure and keep it down.
1. Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline
Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Losing just 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) can help reduce your blood pressure. In general, the more weight you lose, the lower your blood pressure. Losing weight also makes any blood pressure medications you’re taking more effective.
Besides shedding pounds, you 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, or cm).
– Women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (89 cm).
– Asian men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 36 inches (91 cm).
– Asian women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 32 inches (81 cm).
2. Exercise regularly
Regular physical activity — at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). And it doesn’t take long to see a difference. If you haven’t been active, increasing your exercise level can lower your blood pressure within just a few weeks.
If you have prehypertension — systolic pressure between 120 and 139 or diastolic pressure between 80 and 89 — 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.
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 to 14 mm Hg. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
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. The recommendations for reducing sodium are:
– Limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less, that means less than half tea spoonful in all the food items in a day.
– A lower sodium level — 1,500 mg a day or less — is appropriate for people 51 years of age or older, and individuals of any age who have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
5. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
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. But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol — generally more than one drink a day for women and men older than age 65, or more than two a day for men age 65 and younger. Also, if you don’t normally drink alcohol, you shouldn’t start drinking as a way to lower your blood pressure. There’s more potential harm than benefit to drinking alcohol.
If you drink more than moderate amounts of it, alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of high blood pressure medications.
6. Avoid tobacco products and secondhand smoke
On top of all the other dangers of smoking, the nicotine in tobacco products can raise your blood pressure by 10 mm Hg or more for up to an hour after you smoke. Smoking throughout the day means your blood pressure may remain constantly high.
You should also avoid secondhand smoke. Inhaling smoke from others also puts you at risk of health problems, including high blood pressure and heart disease.
7. Cut back on caffeine
The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debatable. Drinking caffeinated beverages can temporarily cause a spike in your blood pressure, but it’s unclear whether the effect is temporary or long lasting.
To see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a cup of coffee or another caffeinated beverage you regularly drink. If your blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 points, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine.
8. Reduce your stress
Stress or anxiety can temporarily increase 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.
If you can’t eliminate all of your stressors, you can at least cope with them in a healthier way. Take breaks for deep-breathing exercises. Get a massage or take up yoga or meditation. If self-help doesn’t work, seek out a professional for counseling.
9. Monitor your blood pressure at home and make regular doctor’s appointments
If you have high blood pressure, you may need to monitor your blood pressure at home. Learning to self-monitor your blood pressure with an upper arm monitor can help motivate you.
10. Get support from family and friends
Supportive family and friends can help improve your health. They may encourage you to take care of yourself, drive you to the doctor’s clinic or embark on an exercise program with you to keep your blood pressure low. Talk to your family and friends about the dangers of high blood pressure.
Enjoy your life hypertension-free.