To Lower Blood Pressure Make Changes That Matter
One reason high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) is so dangerous is that it has no symptoms. As a result, people can have HBP for years and never know it until they have a health crisis, like a heart attack, stroke or kidney disease. Since that kind of damage can’t be undone, the better choice is to pre-empt it by getting a physical exam and making lifestyle changes that matter.
Maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight provides many benefits. If you are overweight, losing as little as five to 10 pounds may help lower your blood pressure. It also makes it easier to be physically active because you’re lugging around fewer pounds. Being overweight puts extra strain on your heart, increasing the risk for developing HBP and damage to your blood vessels. Even a small weight loss can help manage HBP in people with a body mass index of 25 or greater.
If you need to lose weight, talk to your healthcare professional about a healthy approach for you
For example, your doctor can help you figure out how many calories you need for weight loss and advise you on which types of activities are best.
Aim for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, and limit saturated and total fat. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan is designed to help you manage blood pressure. Emphasizing the healthy food sources already mentioned, it also limits red meat, sweets, added sugars, sugar-sweetened beverages and sodium (salt).
Be aware of the amount of sodium you eat and work to reduce your typical intake by at least 1,000 mg daily. Ideally, keep sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg a day.
Also aim to get 3,500-5,000 mg of potassium in your diet each day. Potassium can be harmful if you have kidney disease, any condition that affects how your body handles potassium, or you take certain medications. So, discuss your potassium intake with your healthcare provider.
Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure, so limiting alcohol consumption can help to prevent HBP. If you drink, limit your alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women. A drink is one 12 oz. beer, 5 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits.
Enjoy regular physical activity
Physical activity not only helps control HBP, it also helps you manage your weight, strengthens your heart and lowers your stress level — all of which are good for your blood pressure. When managing high blood pressure, the American Heart Association recommends that you aim for at least 90 to 150 minutes of aerobic and/or dynamic resistance exercises as well as three sessions of isometric resistance exercises per week. Even moderately intense physical activity, such as brisk walking, is beneficial when done regularly.
Both smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke increase the risk for the buildup of plaque inside your arteries — a process that HBP is known to accelerate. Every time you smoke, it also causes a temporary increase in blood pressure. If you smoke, quit.
Take your medications properly
Medication may be part of your HBP treatment because lifestyle changes may not be enough to reduce your numbers to the normal range. You may even need more than one type of prescription medication to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
The good news is that HBP meds are well studied and well tolerated, although they may require some adjustments. Never reduce or stop taking your medications without talking with your healthcare provider.
You and your doctor are a team
At first, managing your blood pressure may require you to partner with your healthcare provider to find the right meds or combination of meds to keep your numbers in range. Once your treatment program becomes routine, maintaining a lower blood pressure is easier. Remind yourself that by managing your blood pressure, you are lowering your risk for heart attack, stroke and other serious conditions.
Do your part starting today for yourself and for those you love. Listen to your doctor, read the sound medical information we’ve linked to and act on the information to live a heart-healthy life.