What is hypertension?

Hypertension, another name for high blood pressure, is often called a “silent killer.” This is because you can have hypertension without even knowing it, as it often presents with no symptoms. When blood pressure is uncontrolled for a long time, it significantly increases your risk of having a heart attack, stroke, and other life-threatening conditions.

A normal blood pressure reading is defined as falling below 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe treatment options including:

  • lifestyle changes
  • medications
  • supplements

What causes high blood pressure?

High blood pressure can have a variety of causes, including:

Your risk also increases with age. As you get older, your artery walls lose their elasticity.

If you have high blood pressure from unknown causes, it’s called essential or primary hypertension. Secondary hypertension occurs if your hypertension is caused by a medical condition, such as kidney disease.

Eat a healthy diet

Your doctor may encourage you to change your eating habits to help lower your blood pressure. The American Heart Association (AHA) endorses the DASH diet, which stands for “dietary approaches to stop hypertension.”

The DASH diet is rich in:

It’s also low in:

You should also reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake.

Why do I need to eat less sodium?

Sodium causes your body to retain fluids. This increases the volume of your blood and the pressure in your blood vessels. It’s believed that reducing your sodium intake can lower your blood pressure by 2-8 mm Hg in certain people.

Most healthy people should limit their sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams (mg) or less per day. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, you should eat no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. You should also limit your sodium intake to 1,500 mg daily if you’re African-American or over 50 years old.

Check out these low-sodium foods to get started.

Why should I eat more potassium?

Potassium is an important mineral for good health. It also helps lessen the effects of sodium in your body. Eating enough potassium can help control your blood pressure.

The average adult should consume about 4,700 mg of potassium per day. Foods that are rich in potassium include:

Ask your doctor about how much potassium you need. It’s important to get enough potassium in your diet. But eating too much of it may also be harmful, especially if you have certain medical conditions such as chronic kidney disease.

Get regular exercise

On top of eating a well-balanced diet, it’s essential to get regular exercise. In a recent study, researchers reported that low-to-moderate exercise training can help reduce high blood pressure.

How much exercise do you need? Most healthy adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. If you have high blood pressure, try to get at least 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise three to four days per week.

Lose weight

Gaining weight increases your risk of hypertension. For overweight people, losing weight has been shown to decrease blood pressure up to 10 mm Hg. People are considered overweight if their body mass index (BMI) is greater than 25.

Even gradual weight loss can benefit your blood pressure levels, reducing or preventing hypertension. The AHA says that a 5-10 pound loss can provide health benefits. Consult your doctor on the healthiest way to lose weight for you.

Reduce alcohol intake

Alcohol intake has a direct relationship with blood pressure. Encouraging moderate alcohol intake is important. While a glass of red wine may offer some health benefits, moderation isn’t just for hard liquor. Regular and heavy intake of any alcohol can increase blood pressure dramatically.

The AHA recommends limiting alcohol intake to two drinks a day for men and one a day for women. One drink equals:

  • 12 oz. of beer
  • 5 oz. of wine
  • 1 1/2 oz. of hard liquor

Stop smoking

Smoking can contribute or even cause a large number of cardiovascular diseases. Each cigarette that you smoke temporarily raises your blood pressure. While research hasn’t yet proven that smoking has a long-term effect on blood pressure, there’s a direct link between smoking and immediate hypertension.

It’s also thought that smoking could have a detrimental effect on central blood pressure, which can result in organ damage. Smoking also leads to inflammation, which plays a role in the long-term damage to blood vessels.

If you want to stop smoking, ask your doctor for product recommendations about nicotine gums or patches, and about support groups that focus on quitting smoking.

Get enough vitamin C and D

Vitamin C

According to scientists from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, high doses of vitamin C — an average of 500 mg per day — may produce small reductions of blood pressure. Vitamin C may act as a diuretic, removing excess fluid from your body. This may help lower the pressure within your blood vessels.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is also essential to your overall health. According to a review article from 2013, vitamin D deficiency may raise your risk of hypertension. It’s possible that taking vitamin D supplements might help lower your blood pressure by interacting with a variety of systems in the body. You can also find vitamin D in these foods.

Reduce stress

Reducing your overall stress can directly impact hypertension. High levels of stress sustained over long periods of time can have negative effects on your hypertension and overall health.

Acupuncture has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat many conditions. It’s also used for stress relief and promoting relaxation. Research suggests it may help improve certain conditions, including high blood pressure. A study published in 2013 suggests that acupuncture may help lower blood pressure when used in combination with antihypertensive medications.

Meditation is also thought to help relieve stress or anxiety, even if you can only meditate a few times a day. Deep breathing exercises, whether combined with meditation or used alone, can also be effective, as they reduce the heart rate and forcibly lower blood pressure.

If you’re unable to cut out stress from your life, consulting a therapist can be helpful. They can offer stress management techniques that can prevent the stress from impacting your health.

Connect with your healthcare provider

Healthy blood pressure levels are important for lowering your chances of developing heart disease.

Get your blood pressure checked regularly. If you’re diagnosed with hypertension, follow your doctor’s recommendations to lower your blood pressure. They may prescribe treatment strategies such as medications, supplements, and changes to your diet or exercise routine.

Always talk to your doctor before changing your treatment plan and never stop medications without consulting them first. They can help you understand the potential benefits and risks of treatment options.