Bring It Down
High blood pressure (or hypertension) is a blood pressure reading of at least 140/90 mmHg. Numbers like this can put you at risk for a number of serious health conditions, including stroke and heart disease.
Fortunately, there’s more than medication that can help lower your blood pressure. Making the right lifestyle choices can help control blood pressure as well.
Try these quick tips to reduce your blood pressure—and maybe even lower your chance of developing heart disease.
Lose 10 Pounds
The Mayo Clinic reports that dropping any extra weight can help keep your blood pressure in check. Start with just 10 pounds; as a general rule, the more you lose, the lower your blood pressure.
Weight loss can also make your blood pressure medication more effective. Losing weight can be particularly effective if your weight is outside of the range that’s considered healthy, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Talk to your doctor about an optimal target weight, and a safe weight-loss plan for you.
If you’re uncertain as to whether you need to lose weight, ask your doctor to measure your body mass index (BMI) and your waistline. These two readings can help determine whether you’re at increased risk for high blood pressure.
Your BMI is a measurement of your body’s height to your weight. While knowing your BMI can often help to predict your level of body fat, it may not be enough. Waist measurement can indicate risk for developing high blood pressure. A healthy waist measurement for men is under 40 inches, and women under 35 inches.
Walk It Out
A great way to improve your BMI, reduce the fat around your middle, and decrease your blood pressure is to reduce your calories and get regular exercise.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) states that even easier exercises like walking or doing chores around the house can pay off in lowering blood pressure.
ACM recommends a half-hour minimum of moderate physical activity five days a week.
Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program.
A healthy diet is another key to improving and maintaining your blood pressure. The Mayo Clinic recommends the DASH Diet, otherwise known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Diet.
DASH may sound fancy, but it isn’t complicated. It simply means eating foods that are low in cholesterol and saturated fat, and focusing on balanced nutrition. Think the usual suspects: fruits and veggies, whole grains, and low- or no-fat dairy products. Another important factor in a successful diet is to reduce the size of your portions.
DASH is effective and may cause your blood pressure to plummet as much as 14 mmHg.
Don’t Pass the Salt
Salt and high blood pressure don’t mix. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you cut even a little bit of salt from your diet, it can result in lowering your blood pressure by as much as 8 mmHg. The majority of salt in the American diet comes from restaurant food and pre-prepared foods.
Aim to keep your sodium intake to no higher than 2,300 mg per day. Those over age 51 should consume even less salt—strive for no more than 1,500 mg a day.
Take It Down a Notch
Increased stress can mean increased blood pressure, at least temporarily. If you’re at risk for high blood pressure due to being overweight, you’ll want to pay particular attention to lowering your stress.
Many activities can help you stay calmer in the face of daily life stressors. Many of the same healthy actions that are good for your blood pressure—like eating right and exercising—can also be stress preventers.
In addition to exercise, other forms of relaxation like meditation or deep breathing can also be helpful.
Make Lower a Habit
When you focus on living a healthy lifestyle, you’ll be making the right choices for your blood pressure as well. Watching your weight, exercising, and eating right are winning actions in the battle against hypertension.
Taming your vices can also make a difference in some cases. If you smoke, drink too much alcohol, or have a daily caffeine habit, talk to your doctor about whether cutting back might play a role in your blood pressure reduction plan.