High blood pressure (hypertension) is called the “silent killer” for good reason. It often has no symptoms but is a major risk of heart disease and stroke.
Your blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury, which is abbreviated as mm Hg. There are two numbers involved in the measurement:
- Systolic blood pressure. The top number represents the force of the pressure when your heart pushes blood into the arteries throughout the rest of your body.
- Diastolic blood pressure. The bottom number represents the pressure in your blood vessels between beats when your heart is filling and relaxing.
Your blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The higher your blood pressure, the narrower your arteries are.
A blood pressure reading of less than 120/80 mm Hg is regarded as normal. High blood pressure is defined as a reading of 130/80 mm Hg or higher.
While there is no cure, taking your medications as prescribed and implementing lifestyle changes can improve your quality of life while lowering your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and other complications.
If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you might be worried about taking medication to bring your numbers down.
The good news is that lifestyle plays an important role in reducing your high blood pressure. If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you might avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication.
Here are 5 lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure.
- Exercise regularly
Regular physical exercise of 150 minutes per week, or around 30 minutes most days of the week, can help lower your blood pressure. It's critical to maintain consistency because stopping exercise can cause your blood pressure to rise again.
Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, and dancing are all forms of aerobic exercise that can help you lower your blood pressure. You can also try high-intensity interval training, which is alternating brief bursts of intensive activity with lighter activity rest periods.
Strength exercise can also help you lower your blood pressure. At least two days a week, including strength training workouts.
Please consult your doctor about starting an exercise routine.
- Eat a healthy diet
Eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products while avoiding saturated fat and cholesterol can help lower your blood pressure. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is the name of this eating strategy.
It is not easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet:
- Keep a food journal. Even if it's only for a week, writing down everything you eat might reveal a lot about your genuine eating habits. Keep track of everything you eat, how much you consume, when you eat it, and why you eat it.
- Consider increasing your potassium intake. Potassium can help lower blood pressure by counteracting the effects of salt. Foods like fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements, are the finest sources of potassium.
- Shop wisely. When you're shopping, read the labels on the foods you buy, and stick to your healthy eating plan even when you're eating out.
- Reduce sodium in your diet
Reducing sodium in your diet can improve your heart health and reduce 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 to the foods and beverages you normally buy.
- Eat fewer processed foods. While only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in foods, most sodium is added during processing
- Don't add salt. Use herbs or spices to add flavor to your food.
- Quit smoking
It's difficult, but it's worthwhile: quitting smoking is good for your overall health. Smoking causes an increase in blood pressure and heart rate that is immediate but only transient.
Tobacco's chemicals can raise your blood pressure over time by weakening blood vessel walls, producing inflammation, and narrowing your arteries. Higher blood pressure is caused by hardened arteries.
- Reduce your stress
High blood pressure may be exacerbated by chronic stress. If you react to stress by eating unhealthy foods, consuming alcohol, or smoking, it can contribute to high blood pressure.
Take some time to consider what makes you stressed, such as work, family, finances, or illness. Consider how you can eliminate or lessen stress once you know what's generating it.
If you can't eliminate all of your stressors, you can at least cope with them in a healthier way. Here are a few things you can try.
- Set new goals for yourself. Plan your day, for example, and keep your priorities in mind. Try not to take on too much and learn to say no. Recognize that some things are beyond your control, but you can influence how you react to them.
- Concentrate on the issues you have control over and develop plans to address them. If you're having a problem at work, speak with your boss. Take measures to resolve any conflicts you may have with your children or spouse.
- Stay away from stressors. When you can, try to stay away from triggers. If rush-hour traffic on your commute to work, for example, is causing you stress, consider leaving earlier in the morning or taking public transportation. If at all possible, avoid folks who make you feel stressed.
- Make time to unwind and participate in activities that you enjoy. Spend some time each day sitting quietly and fully breathing. Make time in your schedule for fun activities or hobbies, such as going for a stroll, cooking, or volunteering.
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