Lifestyle plays an important role in treating your high blood pressure. If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you may avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication. Today, those looking for how to control high blood pressure have a variety of methods to choose from.
1) Prescription drugs – this is the most common method by far of controlling high blood pressure. After being diagnosed, your doctor will typically put you on some type of medications. There is no one size fits all drug. Depending on how bad your blood pressure is and taking into account your allergies as well as other medications that you may be on, he will prescribe the drug he thinks is best for you.
Keep in mind, however, that this is not an exact science. If the drug shows little signs of being effective or if you are experiencing side effects, he may change the prescription at your next appointment. New drugs are coming onto the market all the time and finding the perfect one for you is mostly based on trial and error.
Having a blood pressure machine to monitor how the medications are affecting you in real time adds another piece of information that you can share with your doctor to help find the best medication for you.
2) Lifestyle changes – even though heredity is obviously a factor in whether you get high blood pressure, it’s well known that your lifestyle choices have an effect as well. Over eating, bad eating habits, smoking, drinking, and other factors can increase your blood pressure.
But changing some of these choices can affect lower your blood pressure as well. Changes you can make include – eating less salt in your foods, quit smoking, replace the “bad fats” in your diet with good fats, and control your weight. These are all things that you have direct control of that can help you to control your high blood pressure.
If you have only mild high blood pressure, you may even be able to avoid having to take medication by simply making changes in your lifestyle.
3) Herbs – many people, not exactly trusting the drug companies to be looking out for their best interest, want a more natural way of learning how to control high blood pressure. For these people, herbs are the natural choice. Many herbs such as hawthorn berry, olive leaf, mistletoe, and others have been used for decades to strengthen the heart and control blood pressure.
Taking steps towards learning how to control high blood pressure is important for a number of reasons. Number one on the list is that according to the American Heat Association, is impacts about 1 out of every 3 adults in the country. In addition, it is directly or indirectly the cause of millions of deaths a year from illnesses such as heart failure, strokes, kidney failure, and others. One of the things you should do first is to buy some sort of home blood pressure machine that will let you monitor your blood pressure as your try the various treatments. Invariably, some treatments work better with some people than others. In order to know definitely which treatments are working for you, you have to be able to measure the results.
How Can I Prevent High Blood Pressure?
You can prevent high blood pressure by:
- Maintaining a healthy weight. Lose weight if you are overweight.
- Exercising more.
- Eating foods low in salt.
- Eating healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.
- Drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation, if you drink at all.
These changes are also recommended for treating high blood pressure, although medicine is often added as part of the treatment
How Is Blood Pressure Related to Weight?
As your body weight increases, your blood pressure rises. In fact, being overweight can make you more likely to develop high blood pressure than if you are at your desirable weight. More than 60% of adults in the United States are overweight. You can reduce your risk of high blood pressure by losing weight. Even small amounts of weight loss can make a big difference in helping to prevent and treat high blood pressure.
How Can I Lose Weight?
To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. But don’t go on a crash diet to see how quickly you can lose those pounds. The healthiest and longest-lasting weight loss happens when you do it slowly, losing 1/2 to 1 pound a week. By cutting back by 500 calories/day, by eating less and being more physically active, you can lose about one pound in a week.
Here are some tips to help you lose weight and get on the road to healthy eating:
Choose foods low in calories and fat. Naturally, choosing low-calorie foods cuts calories. But did you know that choosing foods low in fat also cuts calories? Fat is a concentrated source of calories, so eating fewer fatty foods will reduce calorie intake. Some examples of fatty foods to cut down on are: butter, margarine, regular salad dressings, fatty meats, skin of poultry, fried foods, whole-milk dairy foods like cheese, cookies, cakes, and snacks.
Choose foods high in starch and fiber. Foods high in starch and fiber, like fruits, vegetables, dry peas and beans, as well as whole-grain cereals, pasta, rice and breads, are excellent substitutes for high fat foods. They are lower in calories than foods high in fat and are also good sources of vitamins and minerals.
Limit serving size. To lose weight, it’s not just the type of foods you eat that’s important, but also the amount. To take in fewer calories, you need to limit your portion sizes. Try especially to take smaller helpings of high calorie foods like high fat meats and cheeses. And try not to go back for seconds.
Keep a food diary. Keep track of what you eat, when you eat and why, by writing it down. Note whether you snack on high fat foods in front of the television, or if you skip breakfast and then eat a large lunch. Once you see your habits, you can set goals for yourself.
Exercise. Another important ingredient to losing weight is increasing physical activity. Cutting down on fat and calories combined with regular physical activity can help you lose more weight and keep it off longer than only eating less or only exercising. Exercise can also lower blood pressure. People who are physically active have a lower risk of getting high blood pressure than people who are not active. You don’t have to be a marathon runner to benefit from physical activity. Even light activities, if done daily, can help lower your risk of heart disease. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park farther away from the entrance so that you have to walk farther.
Here are lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure and keep it down.
1. Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline
Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Losing just 10 pounds can help reduce your blood pressure. 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.
Besides shedding pounds, you should also keep an eye on your waistline. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high blood pressure. In general:
Men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (102 centimeters, or cm).
Women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (88 cm).
Asian men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 36 inches (90 cm).
Asian women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 32 inches (80 cm).
2. Exercise regularly
Regular physical activity — at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). And 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.
If you have prehypertension (systolic pressure between 120 and 139 or diastolic pressure between 80 and 89), exercise can help you avoid developing full-blown hypertension. If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels.
Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program. 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.
But 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.
3. Eat a healthy diet
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg. 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.
- Cut yourself some slack. Although the DASH diet is a lifelong eating guide, it doesn’t mean you have to cut out all of the foods you love. It’s OK to treat yourself occasionally to foods you wouldn’t find on a DASH diet menu, like a candy bar or mashed potatoes with gravy.
4. Reduce sodium in your diet
Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can reduce blood pressure by 2 to 8 mm Hg. Most healthy adults need only between 1,500 and 2,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day. But if you have high blood pressure, aim for less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
To decrease sodium in your diet, consider these tips:
- Track how much salt is in your diet. Keep a food diary to estimate how much sodium is in what you eat and drink each 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. Just 1 level teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Use herbs or spices, rather than salt, to add more flavor 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.
5. 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 mm Hg. But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol — generally more than one drink a day for women and more than two a day for men. Also, if you don’t normally drink alcohol, you shouldn’t start drinking as a way to lower your blood pressure. There’s more potential harm than benefit to drinking alcohol.
If you drink more than moderate amounts of it, alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of high blood pressure medications.
- Track your drinking patterns. Along with your food diary, keep an alcohol diary to track your true drinking patterns. One drink equals 12 ounces (355 milliliters, or mL) of beer, 5 ounces of wine (148 mL) or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor (45 mL). If you’re drinking more than the suggested amounts, cut back.
- 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.
6. Avoid tobacco products and secondhand smoke
On top of all the other dangers of smoking, the nicotine in tobacco products can raise your blood pressure by 10 mm Hg 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. Inhaling smoke from others also puts you at risk of health problems, including high blood pressure and heart disease.
7. 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.
To see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a cup of coffee or another caffeinated beverage you regularly drink. If your blood pressure increases by five to 10 points, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine.
Regardless of your sensitivity to caffeine’s effects, doctors recommend you drink no more than 200 milligrams a day — about the amount in two cups of coffee.
8. Reduce your 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 counseling.
9. Monitor your blood pressure at home and make regular doctor’s appointments
If you have high blood pressure, you may need to monitor your blood pressure at home. Learning to self-monitor your blood pressure with an upper arm monitor can help motivate you. Talk to your doctor about home monitoring before getting started.
Regular visits to your doctor are also likely to become a part of your normal routine.
These visits will help keep tabs on your blood pressure.
- Have a primary care doctor. People who don’t have a primary care doctor find it harder to control their blood pressure. If you can, visit the same health care facility or professional for all of your health care needs.
- Visit your doctor regularly. If your blood pressure isn’t well controlled, or if you have other medical problems, you might need to visit your doctor every month to review your treatment and make adjustments. If your blood pressure is under control, you might need to visit your doctor only every six to 12 months, depending on other conditions you might have.
10. Get support from family and friends
Supportive family and friends can help improve your health. They may encourage you to take care of yourself, drive you to the doctor’s office or embark on an exercise program with you to keep your blood pressure low. Talk to your family and friends about the dangers of high blood pressure.
If you find you need support beyond your family and friends, consider joining a support group. This may put you in touch with people who can give you an emotional or morale boost and who can offer practical tips to cope with your condition.