If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you may be worried to lower your numbers by taking medication.
An important role is played by lifestyle in treating your high blood pressure. If with a healthy lifestyle you are successful in controlling your blood pressure, you may be able to avoid, delay, or reduce the need for medication.
Here are 5 lifestyle changes you can make to lower and keep your blood pressure low
1. Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline
Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight can also cause trouble breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea), which can also increase your blood pressure.
For controlling blood pressure, weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes. Losing even a small amount of weight if you are overweight or obese can help lower your blood pressure. In general, you can lower your blood pressure by about 1 millimeter of mercury (mm Hg) for every kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of weight you lose.
In addition to losing weight, you usually need to keep an eye on your waistline. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at an increased risk for high blood pressure.
- Men are at risk if their waist circumference is larger than 40 inches (102 centimeters).
- Women are at risk if their waist size is larger than 89 centimeters.
These figures vary among ethnic groups. Ask your doctor about a healthy waistline for you.
2. Exercise regularly
Regular physical activity – like 150 minutes a week or about 30 minutes most days of the week – can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. It is important to be consistent because if you stop exercising your blood pressure may go back up.
Exercise can help you avoid developing high blood pressure if you have it. If you already have high blood pressure, regular physical activity can lower your blood pressure to safer levels.
Some examples of aerobic exercise that you can try to lower blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or dancing. You can also try high-intensity interval training, which involves alternating short periods of intense activity with later recovery periods of lighter activities. Strength training can also help lower blood pressure. Try to include strength training at least two days a week. Talk to your doctor to develop an exercise program.
3. Eat a healthy diet
Eating a diet high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, along with saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 11mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. This diet is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
It’s not easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet:
- Keep a food journal. Writing down what you eat, even for just a week, can shed surprising light on your true eating habits. Watch how much you eat, what, when and why.
- Consider increasing potassium. Potassium may lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. Food is the best source of potassium, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. Talk to your doctor about which potassium level is best for you.
- Be a wise buyer. Read food labels when shopping and stick to your healthy diet when dining out.
4. Cut down on sodium in your diet
Even a small reduction in sodium in your diet can improve your heart health and lower blood pressure by about 5-6 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure.
Among different groups of people, the effect of sodium intake on blood pressure varies. In general, limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day or even less. However, for most adults, a lower sodium intake – 1,500 mg per day or less – is ideal.
Consider these tips, to reduce sodium in your diet:
- Read food labels. If possible, choose low sodium alternatives to the foods and drinks you usually buy.
- Eat less processed foods. Only a small amount of sodium is naturally present in food. Most of the sodium is added during processing.
- Do not add salt. A single level teaspoon of salt contains 2300 mg of sodium. To add flavor, use herbs or spices for your food.
- Ease in it. If you don’t think you can drastically reduce the sodium level in your diet suddenly, cut back gradually. Your palate will adjust over time.
5. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
For your health, alcohol can be both good and bad. By drinking alcohol only in moderation – usually one glass a day for women, or two a day for men – you can potentially lower your blood pressure by about 4 mm Hg. One glass is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80 degree alcohol.
But this protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol.
Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can actually increase blood pressure by several points. The effectiveness of blood pressure medications is also reduced.