Untreated, hypertension (high blood pressure) can lead to serious problems such as heart attack and stroke.
If you’re one of the one in three Americans suffering from this condition, 1 lifestyle plays an important part in treating your high blood pressure. Some patients are able to successfully control blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle. Committing to such a lifestyle may help you delay, reduce, or even remove the need for medication.
Here are some lifestyle changes you can make to control hypertension.
Eat a healthy diet
Make smart choices in your diet including fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains. Avoid cholesterol, sodium, processed foods, and saturated fat as much as possible.
Keeping a log of what you eat even for a little while to gain insight into how much and what you’re consuming. There are a variety of apps out there that can help log meals and break down the nutrients for you.
Make a plan before you go out to eat or to the grocery store. Proper planning can help you avoid making unhealthy decisions.
Potassium is also an important nutrient. It may lessen the effects of sodium on your blood pressure. The best way to receive potassium is food, not supplements. Discuss with your doctor to learn the potassium level that’s best for you.
Drink alcohol only in moderation. The recommendation is no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men. Drinking above the recommendation not only raises blood pressure by several points, but it also may reduce the effectiveness of medication for hypertension.
Lose weight if needed
Weight loss is very effective for controlling blood pressure. Losing even a small amount of weight may reduce your blood pressure.
Besides weight loss, keep an eye on your waistline. Men with a waist measurement greater than 40 inches generally have hypertension. Women are at risk if they have a waist measurement above 35 inches.
These numbers do vary among ethnic groups. Ask your doctor what is healthy for you.
Regular physical activity, 150 minutes a week, can lower blood pressure. It’s important to be consistent. Blood pressure can rise again if you stop exercising regularly.
The benefits of not smoking are numerous. Quitting reduces your risk of heart disease and improves your overall health and may lengthen your life.
Cut back on caffeine
Caffeine doesn’t affect everyone the same. In fact, those that regularly drink coffee may not notice a rise in blood pressure.
Take your blood pressure before and after having caffeine. If your blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 mm Hg within 30 minutes of caffeine consumption, you may be sensitive to caffeine.
Chronic stress may contribute to hypertension. More research is needed to determine the effects of chronic stress on blood pressure. If you respond to occasional stress in unhealthy ways such as drinking alcohol, smoking or overeating.
Take some time to think about what causes you to stress and consider ways you can reduce or eliminate stress. This may include activities like exercise, hobbies, and finding quiet time alone.
Monitor your blood pressure regularly
Regular visits with your doctor help manage hypertension. Your doctor may suggest checking your blood pressure daily with an at-home monitor. If you’ve had a recent medication change, your doctor may recommend that you check it beginning two weeks after starting the medication.
Learn more about our advanced cardiac care at ccmhhealth.com/heart-and-vascular.
1 Merai R, Siegel C, Rakotz M, Basch P, Wright J, Wong B, Thorpe P. CDC Grand Rounds: A Public Health Approach to Detect and Control Hypertension. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65(45):1261–1264.
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