Lifestyle plays an important role in treating high blood pressure. If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you may avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication. Below are some measures you can take to reduce your blood pressure.
Lose extra weight: Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Losing just 4.5 kilograms can help reduce your blood pressure significantly. In general, the more weight you lose, the lower your blood pressure. Losing weight also makes any blood pressure medications you’re taking more effective. You and your doctor can determine your target weight and the best way to achieve it. A waistline less than 102cm for men and 89cm for women is ideal.
Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity — at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by up to 9 units. It doesn’t take long to see a difference. If you haven’t been active, increasing your exercise level can lower your blood pressure within just a few weeks. Your doctor can help determine whether you need any exercise restrictions. Even moderate activity for 10 minutes at a time, such as walking and light strength training, can help.
Avoid being a “weekend warrior.” Trying to squeeze all your exercise in on the weekends to make up for weekday inactivity isn’t a good strategy. Those sudden bursts of activity could actually be risky.
Eat a healthy diet: Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and low in saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 units. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. It isn’t easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet:
Keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat, even for just a week, can shed surprising light on your true eating habits. Monitor what you eat, how much, when and why.
Consider boosting potassium. Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is food, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. Talk to your doctor about the potassium level that’s best for you.
Be a smart shopper. Make a shopping list before heading to the supermarket to avoid picking up junk food. Read food labels when you shop and stick to your healthy-eating plan when you’re dining out, too.
Reduce sodium in your diet: Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can reduce blood pressure by up to 8units. To reduce sodium in your diet:
Track how much salt you eat. Keep a food diary to estimate how much sodium is in what you eat each day. Ideally you should eat less than a teaspoon of salt in a day.
Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy.
Eat fewer processed foods. Potato chips, frozen dinners, bacon and processed lunch meats are high in sodium.
Don’t add salt.Use herbs or spices, rather than salt, to add more flavour to your foods.
Ease into it. If you don’t feel like you can drastically reduce the sodium in your diet suddenly, cut back gradually. Your palate will adjust over time.
Limit the amount of alcohol you drink: Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. In small amounts, it can potentially lower your blood pressure by 2 to 4 units. That protective effect is however lost if you drink too much. Alcohol can also reduce the effectiveness of high blood pressure medications.
Consider tapering off. If you’re a heavy drinker, suddenly eliminating all alcohol can actually trigger severe high blood pressure for several days. So when you stop drinking, do it with the supervision of your doctor or taper off slowly, over one to two weeks.
Don’t binge. Binge drinking – having four or more drinks in a row – can cause large and sudden increases in blood pressure, in addition to other health problems.
Avoid tobacco: On top of all the other dangers of smoking, the nicotine in tobacco products can raise your blood pressure by 10 units or more for up to an hour after you smoke. Smoking throughout the day means your blood pressure may remain constantly high. You should also avoid secondhand smoke which has much the same effect.
Cut back on caffeine: The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debatable. Drinking caffeinated beverages can temporarily cause a spike in your blood pressure, but it’s unclear whether the effect is temporary or long lasting. Some people seem more prone to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine than others.
Reduce stress: Stress or anxiety can temporarily increase blood pressure. Take some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as work, family, finances or illness. Once you know what’s causing your stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress.
If you can’t eliminate all of your stressors, you can at least cope with them in a healthier way. Take breaks for deep-breathing exercises. Get a massage or take up yoga or meditation. If self-help doesn’t work, seek out a professional for counselling.
High blood pressure is sometimes known as the silent killer because it does a lot of damage to your insides silently. If you are struggling with, or suspect you have high blood pressure, please visit your doctor.