Making lifestyle changes can play an important role in lowering your blood pressure. They will help you reach and maintain your optimum target range. As your blood pressure normalizes, you will also greatly reduce your risk of other cardiovascular complications.
If you are not on a special diet to manage other conditions, your doctor may advise dietary changes. These changes may include:
A heart healthy diet helps to keep blood vessels and your heart healthy. Proper food choices can decrease the risk of plaque build up in your blood vessels and decrease workload on the heart.
Aim for a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol and rich in whole grains , fruits, and vegetables . Choosing certain heart healthy foods can also raise levels of HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is beneficial because it helps your body get rid of plaque.
Foods that are high in sodium cause your body to retain fluids. Fluids circulate in the blood, which increases the pressure in your arteries. Sodium comes from table salt and is added to many of the processed foods you eat. Processed foods include breads, deli meats, and condiments. The American Heart Association recommends keeping your sodium intake to under 1,500 milligrams per day. It is important to read food labels to see the sodium content so you can better manage your total daily intake.
Your doctor may also talk to you about the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). The diet has been proven effective in reducing blood pressure in several studies.
Excess weight can put a strain on your heart as it works harder to circulate blood, which can worsen hypertension. Losing as little as 10 pounds can help decrease your heart’s workload and lower your blood pressure. Eating a balanced diet will help you lose weight safely and maintain it once you attain the proper weight. If you are overweight, talk to a dietitian who can help you with portion control and meal planning.
When you shop, take some time to read the food labels for ingredient and nutrition information. Look for healthier options and those that do not have trans fats. If you need help getting started, check the ChooseMyPlate or American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics websites for easy ideas.
Every time you smoke , your blood pressure goes up. Smoking narrows blood vessels and it also increases your heart rate. These increases are compounded when you have hypertension. When you stop smoking, the benefits are immediate, which can help reduce the risk of further damage. There are several successful programs that can help you quit . Talk to your doctor about which one may work best for you.
Part of your hypertension treatment is controlling other chronic conditions you may have. Take any medications your doctor has prescribed, such as insulin for diabetes . Use medications as recommended by your doctor or according to the instructions provided. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about usage or side effects.
Tell your doctor about all the mediations you take, including over-the-counter remedies and herbal supplements . Some drugs or supplements can interfere with blood pressure medications or increase your blood pressure.
Excessive use of alcohol can increase your blood pressure. Alcohol also may react with certain medications. Studies support some benefits with moderate intake. Moderate drinking is considered as 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women.
Exercise can help decrease your blood pressure, improve blood flow, and strengthen your heart. Choose exercises you enjoy and will make a regular part of your day. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day on most days of the week. If you have a hard time starting out, try walking for 10 minutes at a time a few times a day.
Note: Make sure to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program. Some people with hypertension may already have other cardiovascular diseases, which increase the risk of a heart attack or death while exercising.
Although stress does not cause hypertension, hormones released by your body when you are under stress can increase your blood pressure. Take time out to relax, exercise, and practice relaxation techniques.
How is high blood pressure diagnosed? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbp/diagnosis. Updated September 10, 2015. Accessed September 20, 2016.
Hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115345/Hypertension. Updated August 29, 2016. Accessed September 20, 2016.
Prevention & treatment of high blood pressure. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Prevention-Treatment-of-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002054_Article.jsp. Updated June 29, 2016. Accessed September 20, 2016.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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