Have you been recently diagnosed with high blood pressure? If yes, then you might be extremely worried about taking the right medication to bring your numbers down. Well, your lifestyle changes have an important role in treating your high pressure. If you can successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, then you might avoid, postpone or lessen the need for your medication. Read on to know 10 lifestyle changes you can make to lessen the blood pressure and keep it down for your good health.
1. Try to lose extra pounds and check your waistline – Your blood pressure increases with the increase in weight. But if you are overweight, then this may cause disrupted breathing while you sleep which further can increase pressure. Weight loss is one of the effective lifestyle changes for controlling your pressure.
If you lose a small amount of weight when you are overweight or obese, then this can help to decrease your blood pressure. In general, you may lessen the blood pressure by almost 1 millimeter of mercury (mm Hg) with each kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of weight that you may lose. Apart from shedding those extra pounds, you need to keep an eye on your waistline. When you have excess weight around the waist, then this may put you at a greater risk of high blood pressure.
- Men are at greater risk if their waist measurement is more than 40 inches
- Women are at higher risk if their waist measurement is generally greater than 35 inches
2. Perform your exercises daily – Regular physical activities such as 30 minutes for most of the days in a week may help to lessen your pressure by almost 5 to 8 mm Hg for high blood pressure. It is extremely important to remain consistent as when you stop doing your exercises, your blood pressure can increase again. If you are having elevated pressure, then exercise may help to avoid developing hypertension. When you are already having hypertension, daily physical activities may bring your blood pressure down to safe levels.
Some examples of aerobic exercise you can try out to reduce your blood pressure include – jogging, walking, swimming, dancing or cycling. You may try out higher-intensity interval training involving alternate short bursts of intense activity with recovery periods of light activities. Strength training may help to lessen your blood pressure and you should try to include strength training exercises for at least two days a week. You may ask your doctor for health screening and developing an exercise program to improve your overall condition.
3. Eat a well-balanced diet – You should eat a diet which is rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol to reduce blood pressure by almost 11 mm, Hg for high pressure. This eating plan is called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. It is advised to follow these tips and try to adopt a healthy diet chart.
- Keep a food diary – You should make a note of what you eat for a week to shed some light on your eating habits. Find out what you usually eat, how much is the amount, when you eat exactly, and why you eat them.
- Consider boosting potassium – Potassium can help to decrease the effects of sodium on your pressure. The best source of potassium is food such as vegetables and fruits than supplements. You need to talk to your doctor about the potassium level that is best suited for you.
- Be a smart shopper – You need to read through food labels carefully when you shop around and want to stick to the healthy-eating plan at the time of dining out.
4. Reduce the intake of sodium in your diet – A small reduction of sodium in your diet can help to improve your heart health and decrease pressure by almost 5 to 6 mm Hg when you have high pressure.
You will have to consider the following tips in order to decrease sodium intake in your diet.
- Read food labels carefully – If possible, try to select low-sodium alternatives to the foods and beverages you usually buy.
- Eat fewer processed foods – A small amount of sodium occurs naturally in foods and most sodium is added at the time of processing.
- Do not add salt – Take one teaspoon of salt which has 2,300 mg of sodium and use spices or herbs to add flavor to your food.
- Try to ease into it – If you cannot decrease the sodium in your diet suddenly, try to cut down gradually.
5. Restrict the amount of alcohol you drink – Alcohol can be good as well as bad for your overall health. When you drink alcohol in moderation — generally one drink a day for women or two a day for men – you can potentially lower blood pressure by nearly 4 mm Hg.
When you drink more than the moderate amounts, then your blood pressure can increase. Besides, it can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
6. Quit the habit of smoking – Every cigarette you smoke can increase your pressure for many minutes after you finish it. It is advised to quit smoking as this helps your pressure to get back to normal. Quitting smoking can lessen the risk of heart disease and improve your overall health condition. People who quit smoking may live for a longer time than the ones who continue with cigarettes.
7. Try to cut back on caffeine – Caffeine can increase your blood pressure by almost 10 mm Hg in people who rarely want to consume it. But people who are addicted to drinking coffee often might experience almost little or no effect on their pressure level. Though the long-term effects of caffeine on pressure are not that clear, it is quite possible that your blood pressure may slightly increase.
When you want to know if caffeine increases your blood pressure, then try to check your pressure within 30 minutes after drinking a caffeinated beverage. If your blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 mm Hg, then you might be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine. It is advised to consult with the doctor and know about caffeine effects on your blood pressure.
8. Decrease the level of stress – Chronic stress might contribute to high blood pressure and more research work is needed to know the effects of chronic stress on blood pressure. Occasional stress might lead to high pressure when you react to stress due to unhealthy food habits, drinking alcohol or smoking.
You need to spend some time thinking about what causes you to feel stressed like your work, family, finances or illness. After you are aware of what is causing you stress, consider how to eliminate or decrease stress. You may try to:
- Change your expectations – You will have to plan your day properly and then focus on your priorities. Do not do much and learn to say no by understanding that there are certain things you cannot control or change and so, focus on how to react on them.
- Focus on the issues you can control and make plans accordingly – If you have some problem at work, talk to your manager. If you are having a conflict with your kids or spouse, it is suggested to take the necessary steps and get it resolved.
- Avoid stress triggers – You should try to avoid triggers when you really can. For example, if the rush-hours on your way to the office cause you to stress, then you should try to leave early in the morning or take public transportation. Try to avoid people who can make you get stressed, if possible.
- Spend time for relaxation and do activities you enjoy – You need to spend time daily to sit quietly and breathe deeply. Make time for your enjoyable activities or hobbies in the schedule such as taking a walk, volunteering or cooking.
- Practice gratitude – You should try to express gratitude to others who have helped to lessen your stress level.
9. Evaluate your pressure at home and see your doctor regularly – Home monitoring may help to keep tabs on your pressure, ensure your lifestyle changes are appropriate and alert you as well as your doctor for probable health complications. Blood pressure monitors are available widely without the need of a prescription. You may talk to your doctor about home monitoring before you decide to get started.
Regular visits with the doctor are key considerations in controlling your blood pressure. If you have well-controlled pressure, then check with your doctor about how often you should get it checked. Your doctor may suggest checking it daily or less often. If you can make some changes in your medications or other treatments, then your doctor might suggest you check your pressure starting two weeks after the treatment changes and a week before scheduling your next appointment with the doctor.
10. Get complete support of your family and friends – If your family and friends are supportive, then this may help to improve your health condition. They may also encourage you to take proper care of yourself, drive you to the doctor's office or start on an exercise program to keep your pressure level low.
If you are in need of any support beyond your family and friends, then consider joining a support group. This will help you to keep in touch with people who can provide emotional or morale boost and offer practical tips to cope with your present condition.
You may visit the Health Screening Clinic where the doctors will ask to take proper care of your health condition. This will enable you to keep blood pressure under control without the need of taking medications.