With more than 100 million Americans facing “the silent killer,” lifestyle modifications to reduce high blood pressure are more important than ever. Because high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, controlling it is of the utmost importance.
“The first step to controlling and lowering high blood pressure is through lifestyle changes,” said Mercy Health Physician and cardiologist Muhammad Ashraf, MD. “Even the smallest changes in your diet and exercise habits can reduce your risk for heart disease. People can start by focusing on the risk factors that they can treat and control, such as high cholesterol, alcohol intake and tobacco use.”
Before making any major lifestyle changes, Mercy Health recommends that people should speak with their primary care doctor.
There are five lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure. They are:
-Weight Loss: Losing weight is one of the most effective lifestyle changes a person can make to control their blood pressure. Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight can cause disrupted breathing during sleep (also known as sleep apnea), which raises blood pressure even further. Additionally, carrying too much weight around your waist (more than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women) can increase this risk. Losing just 10 pounds can help reduce a person’s blood pressure.
-Regular Exercise: At least 30 minutes of regular physical activity most days of the week is one of the best ways to reduce high blood pressure. However, consistency is important. If a person stops exercising, their blood pressure can rise again. Some of the best types of exercise for reducing blood pressure are walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or strength training. If your local gym is closed due to the current COVID-19 pandemic or you simply decide you feel uncomfortable going right now, consider other exercise options. Turn a corner of your living room into a workout area. Online exercise videos can guide you through a new and challenging routine. You can also go outside to bike, jog or hike. It’s easier to maintain six feet of distance outdoors than it is in the gym.
-Healthy Diet/Low Sodium: Eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products as well as watching sodium intake are easy ways to lower blood pressure. For many people, changing eating habits is easier said than done. A great way to spur positive change is to make a food diary. People can do this by writing down what they eat for one week to get a better picture of what they eat, how much, when and why. In general, try to limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day. Even a small reduction in the sodium in a person’s diet can lower their blood pressure. People should read food labels when they shop and choose low-sodium alternatives and fewer processed foods. From there, avoid adding additional salt. Additionally, increase your potassium intake. Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure.
-Limit Alcohol Consumption: In small amounts, alcohol can potentially lower a person’s blood pressure. That protective effect is lost if a person drinks too much alcohol—more than one drink a day for women and men older than 65, or more than two drinks a day for men 65 and younger. One drink is the equivalent of 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. Drinking any more than these moderate amounts of alcohol can raise blood pressure by several points. Meanwhile, it also reduces the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
-Find Ways to Reduce Stress: Chronic stress is a big contributor to high blood pressure. Even occasional stress can contribute to high blood pressure if a person reacts to stress by eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol or smoking. Examine the causes of stress. Is it family, work, finances, illness? Once a person determines what is causing their stress, they can take steps to eliminate or reduce it.
When people make lifestyle changes, we recommend monitoring their blood pressure at home. While making major changes can be beneficial, it’s often just as effective to change one small step at a time. We recommend trying just one of these easy ways to lower blood pressure, and then after a person can do it consistently, add in another one.
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Submitted by Mercy Health.