Whether you have hypertension, are pre-hypertensive, or are simply seeking to reduce your risk, you can help manage high blood pressure by making a few small, incremental lifestyle changes. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Quit Smoking
It’s the single most important thing you can do for your health. Over time, smoking makes the artery walls stiff, which causes blood pressure to rise. This damage can be permanent, so the sooner you stop smoking, the better. If you’re a smoker–even an occasional one–talk to your health care provider about taking this important first step on your journey to better health and lower blood pressure.
Vigorous aerobic exercise for 30 minutes at a time, at least 5 times a week is proven to help reduce blood pressure. Start a simple walking routine, climb the stairs at work during your lunch break, or schedule a regular fitness class or gym appointment to get started and stay on track. Aerobic exercise helps keep your weight under control (which, alone, can lower your blood pressure significantly) and also turns your cardiovascular system into a finely tuned machine. Plus, you’ll feel better and look great!
3. Eat Well
“Diet” isn’t a dirty word. A great eating plan to combat hypertension includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables loaded with fiber and antioxidants, whole grains, potassium-rich foods like bananas and sweet potatoes, dark chocolate, and maybe even a glass of wine now and then. Reduce your sodium intake by requesting no salt in restaurants and avoiding processed foods. You don’t have to starve or deprive yourself in order to lower your blood pressure through diet.
4. Chill Out
Stress reduction should be a key component of any plan to lower blood pressure. Exercise will help you lower stress and burn calories, and you can engage in other pleasurable activities to help reduce your stress level, too. Studies show controlled breathing on a regular basis can lower blood pressure. While meditating, yoga, and music therapy haven’t been proven effective at reducing blood pressure on their own, they can help you reduce stress, which may in turn be helpful in managing hypertension. Most importantly, try to maintain some perspective on life. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Managing your high blood pressure may never involve medication if you incorporate these healthy lifestyle techniques into your everyday life. If you need help getting started or aren’t sure if it’s safe for you to exercise, talk with your health care provider for guidance and advice.