High blood pressure (or hypertension) is a blood pressure reading above 140/90 mmHg. A high reading puts you at risk for a number of serious health conditions, including stroke and heart disease.
Fortunately, more than medication can help lower your blood pressure. Making the right lifestyle choices also helps control blood pressure.
Try these quick tips to reduce your blood pressure — and maybe even lower your chance of developing heart disease.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dropping any extra weight helps keep your blood pressure in check. You can start with just 10 pounds. 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 a healthy range, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Talk to your doctor about a target weight and a safe weight-loss plan.
If you’re not sure if you need to lose weight, ask your doctor to measure your body mass index (BMI) and your waistline. These two readings help determine if you’re at risk for high blood pressure.
Your BMI is a measurement of your body’s height to your weight. While knowing your BMI can help 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 is under 40 inches for men, and under 35 inches for women.
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) says that simple exercises like walking or doing chores around the house can lower blood pressure. ACSM 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 focusing on balanced nutrition and eating foods that are low in cholesterol and saturated fat. These include 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.
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.
The American Heart Association recommends that you keep your sodium intake to no more than 1,500 mg a day.
Stress can increase blood pressure, at least temporarily. You’ll want to pay particular attention to lowering your stress if you’re at risk for high blood pressure due to being overweight.
Many activities can help you stay calm while dealing with daily stresses. Many of the same healthy actions that are good for your blood pressure — like eating right and exercising — can also prevent stress.
In addition to exercise, other forms of relaxation like meditation or deep breathing are also helpful.
When you’re living a healthy lifestyle, you’re also making the right choices for your blood pressure. Watching your weight, exercising, and eating right can win the battle against hypertension.
Taming your vices also makes a difference in some cases. If you smoke, drink too much alcohol, or drink caffeine daily, talk to your doctor to see if cutting back should be a part of your blood pressure reduction plan.