Top Ten Lifestyle Tips to Reduce High Blood Pressure

Jeff Fischer

If you suffer from hypertension, then it’s important to work with your doctor towards a suitable treatment option to control your BP. Meanwhile, here are top ten steps to reduce your risk and control your BP:

  1. Adopt a Healthy Eating Pattern – To help lower your blood pressure, try the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan. The DASH diet is a guide to the frequency of weekly consumption of various food groups. It is based on a low sodium eating plan rich in fruits and vegetables, and low-fat or non-fat dairy, with whole grains. It is a high fibre, low to moderate fat diet, rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Proper adoption of the dash diet is proven to reduce hypertension and can also help lower weight, reduce cancer and diabetes risk.
  2. Reduce Salt and Sodium in Your Diet – There is a direct correlation between your salt consumption and your blood pressure i.e. the more salt you consume, the higher your BP. Hence even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can reduce blood pressure by 2 to 8 mm Hg. Hence limit your sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day. To decrease sodium in your diet, consider these tips: Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy. Eat fewer processed foods. Potato chips, noodles, frozen dinners, bacon and processed lunch meats are high in sodium. Don’t add salt to cooked food. Just 1 level teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium. Use herbs or spices, rather than salt, to add more flavour to your foods.
  3. Maintaining a Healthy Weight – A larger body requires more blood, which puts more pressure on the heart and blood vessels. Always maintain a healthy weight for your height by targeting a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 20 – 25.
  4. Be Physically Active and avoid stress – Exercising for 30 minutes three to five times a week can lower your blood pressure by 5–7 mmHg. On the other hand stress can make blood pressure shoot up for a short while, and it has been thought to contribute to high blood pressure. But the long-term effects of stress are as yet unclear. Nevertheless aim to reduce your BP by maintaining an active stress free lifestyle.
  5. Control Your Alcohol Intake – Alcohol can be both good and bad for your blood pressure. In small amounts, it can potentially lower your blood pressure by 2 to 4 mm Hg. However, that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol which is 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. Don’t binge drink i.e. having four or more drinks in a row as it can cause large and sudden increases in blood pressure. Finally if you suffer from high BP, avoid alcohol as it can reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
  6. Increase potassium, calcium and magnesium intake – Potassium helps to regulate the beating of the heart. To help reduce your BP, increase your potassium intake from sources such as yoghurts, fruits raisins, bananas, kiwis, oranges and various vegetables such as sweet potatoes, tomatoes, etc. Also eat meals containing nutrients Calcium and Magnesium. These nutrients have not only been consistently shown to prevent high blood pressure, but are important nutrients for overall good health. Good sources of calcium are dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Be sure to choose skim or low fat varieties. Low fat and non-fat dairy products have more calcium than the high fat versions. You should get enough magnesium if you follow a healthy diet. Magnesium is found in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and dry peas and beans.
  7. Trim the fat: Cut out all saturated and trans fats from your diet. These unhealthy fats and cholesterol in foods raise blood cholesterol, which increases the risk for heart disease. Foods high in fats also are high in calories, which must be reduced if you need to lose weight.
  8. Quit smoking and avoid second hand smoke– If you smoke, quit! If you don’t smoke, don’t start! We know smoking does not cause high blood pressure, but smoking is bad for anyone, especially those with high blood pressure. Smoking hardens the arteries and increases the risk of heart disease. Once you quit, your risk of having a heart attack is reduced after the first year. So you have a lot to gain by quitting.
  9. Cut back on caffeine – Whilst the role caffeine plays in causing high blood pressure is still debatable, what is clear is that your blood pressure can temporarily spike after drinking caffeinated beverages. There is no evidence to show caffeine keeps the blood pressure high with prolonged consumption. Regardless, doctors recommend you drink no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day — hence cut down on consumption of caffeinated energy drinks. Also, unless you are drinking decaf, cut down your consumption of regular coffee, tea and especially green tea.
  10. Take your prescribed medication with discipline – If your doctor prescribes any medication for you, take them with discipline. The tips provided above are intended to ‘help’ reduce your BP and not to be used ‘in place’ of any medication. It’s important to understand what your blood pressure medication is expected to do for you and how and when to take your medication. However, be sure to inform your doctor promptly if your blood pressure medication has any side effects and also check to see if any new medication for another ailment does not affect your BP medication or worsen your BP.
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