10 Ways to Control Blood Pressure for National Blood Pressure Month
10 minute read
Let’s say you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure), but you don’t want to start taking medications for it. Luckily, there are several lifestyle changes that are extremely effective in significantly lowering blood pressure.
Since May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, it’s the perfect time to review the dangers of high blood pressure and how you can mitigate the problem if diagnosed.
High blood pressure can be a serious problem, especially since it can raise your risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems. The CDC estimates that 1 out of every 3 adults in America has high blood pressure.
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Lifestyle changes like the ones listed below could help you lower your blood pressure enough so that you won’t have to take medication at all. Here’s what you can do.
Lose Weight and Watch Your Waistline
You may not even need to lose as many pounds as you think. You may be able to lower your blood pressure 1 mm Hg for every 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) that you lose. A loss of 10 pounds could lower your blood pressure about 4 mm Hg.
Pounds aren’t the only number that you need to watch. Your waistline can affect your blood pressure as well.
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These numbers vary among ethnic groups, but generally speaking, men are at greater risk if their waist is greater than 40 inches, and women are at greater risk if their waist is greater than 35 inches. Check with your doctor to find out what is right for you.
Eat a Healthy Diet
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is another very effective way to lower your blood pressure. You could lower your blood pressure a few points in as little as a few weeks, and you could eventually lower it 8 to 14 points.
The DASH Diet focuses on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meat, poultry, and fish as well as low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, and legumes. You also keep an eye on your sodium intake, saturated fat intake, and limit sweets.
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A food journal or food journal app may help you keep on track, and as an extra bonus, the DASH diet may even help you to lose weight.
Potentially, following the DASH diet as a lifelong lifestyle change combined with a weight loss of 14 pounds could take your blood pressure from stage 2 hypertension down to normal levels.
Check out these sample menus for the DASH diet.
Enjoy the Benefits of Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in many foods you will likely include in a healthy diet. However, it's important to be sure that you are getting the amount you need.
Rather than eating a lots of extra seafood, quinoa, or flaxseed, many people turn to omega-3 supplements, such as krill oil.
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Krill oil provides all the omega-3s you need to ensure improved cardiovascular health and many, many other benefits. Taking a supplement each day can remove at least one dietary restriction from your daily menu, allowing it to benefit your health while also being convenient.
Like the DASH diet, exercising regularly is a lifestyle change that needs to be maintained in order to be effective at reducing your blood pressure. The good news is that, if you have high blood pressure, just 30 minutes a day of exercise can help lower your blood pressure 5 to 8 mm Hg.
It can be as simple as going for a 30-minute walk every day, but aim to eventually up the intensity to include things like cycling or jogging. Also try to include some form of strength training, which require no equipment, or weight training.
Talk to your doctor to develop an exercise plan that’s right for you.
Reduce Your Sodium Intake
Too much sodium can make your kidneys less effective at removing excess water from your system. The extra fluid results in higher blood pressure, as well as extra strain on your kidneys.
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Reducing the amount of sodium that you consume can lower your high blood pressure by 5 to 6 mm Hg.
Sodium can be tricky, so in addition to not adding table salt to your food, read nutrition labels. Your sodium goal will likely be to stay under 1,500 to 2,300 mg per day. There’s about 2,400 mg of sodium in 1 teaspoon of salt, to put things into perspective.
When you’re reading labels and buying food, keep in mind that processed foods tend to have more sodium than whole foods, though there may be lower sodium versions available. Don’t take “reduced sodium” at face value, though. Always read the label.
If using less salt in food makes you cringe, you can always ease into eating less salt. Reduce the amount of salt that you use gradually, and your palate will adjust over time.
Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation
A moderate amount of alcohol, 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women, could actually lower your blood pressure by 4 mm Hg.
One drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
Drinking more than the moderate amounts could raise your blood pressure significantly and could also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
Smoking temporarily increases your blood pressure for several minutes. It also increases the risk for plaque buildup in your arteries, a process that is accelerated by high blood pressure. This buildup can cause heart attack or stroke.
Quitting smoking can help lower high blood pressure, in addition to a myriad of other health benefits.
Find information about quitting smoking here.
Drink Less Caffeine
Caffeine’s role in blood pressure is still not entirely clear. It can raise blood pressure several points if the person consuming it doesn’t do so regularly. But if you drink coffee every morning, caffeine may have little to no effect on your blood pressure.
You can check to see if you’re sensitive to caffeine by checking your blood pressure within 30 minutes of consuming caffeine. An increase of 5 to 10 mm Hg could mean that caffeine is affecting your blood pressure.
Consult with your doctor about whether or not caffeine is a factor for you.
Lower Your Stress Levels
Easier said than done, right? Though more research is needed as to the effects of chronic stress on blood pressure, it may be a factor.
Occasional stress may contribute to high blood pressure by prompting you to eat foods that are high in sodium, fat, or sugar, drink more than moderate amounts of alcohol, or smoke.
It’s unlikely that you can eliminate all of the things in life that cause stress, but there are a some things that you can do to lower your stress levels.
Relaxation techniques, such as meditation and breathing deeply, could help you calm down if you’re stressed. You can also take time out to relax, focus on the things that you can control, and practice gratitude, just to name a few.
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Checking Blood Pressure at Home
Blood pressure monitors are widely available and can help you stay aware of where your blood pressure is. You can easily check to see if your lifestyle changes are making a difference between doctor visits.
Seeing a drop in your high blood pressure can encourage you to keep up any changes that you have made.
Check with your doctor about home monitoring, as well as how often you should take your blood pressure. Stay in communication about any unexpected changes.
Support, in the form of friends, family, or support groups, can help you stick to the DASH diet, exercise regularly, or take on any of the lifestyle changes listed above. You’re more likely to make lasting changes if you have someone who holds you accountable or who makes those changes with you.
The Bottom Line
It’s possible to lower high blood pressure into healthy ranges through lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, and losing weight. In addition to keeping blood pressure in check, several of the lifestyle changes have several other health benefits as well.
With National High Blood Pressure Education Month underway, it’s a great time to check your blood pressure and consult with your physician about your risk for high blood pressure and how you can lead a healthier lifestyle.