Dr. Indrajeet Tyagi and Dr. Iranna Hirapur
Lifestyle plays a vital role in treating high blood pressure. You can control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle and might prevent, delay, or reduce the need for medication. By making these 10 lifestyle changes, you can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline
Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight/obese/big size of the waistline also can cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea), which further raises blood pressure. Therefore, losing weight is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure. In general, blood pressure might go down by about 1 millimeter of mercury (mm Hg) with each kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of weight lost.
- Men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (102 centimeters).
- Women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (89 centimeters).
These numbers vary among ethnic groups. Ask your health care provider about a healthy waist measurement for you.
- Exercise regularly
Regular physical activity is important to lower high blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg and to keep it from rising again. As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activities/aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing every day or high-intensity interval training/strength training at least two days a week. Exercise can also help keep elevated blood pressure from turning into high blood pressure (hypertension) or bring blood it down to safer levels.
- Eat a healthy diet
Eating a diet that is fresh and rich in whole foods that are easy to digest, whole grains, fruits, vegetables lean proteins, and healthy fats can lower high blood pressure by up to 11 mm Hg. Avoid processed foods, excessive salt, caffeine, and alcohol. Have a bowlful of moong dal mixed with cilantro, cumin seeds, and a pinch of turmeric. Eat a bowlful of cucumber raita with your meal. Cucumber is said to be a diuretic, which helps control BP. Potassium in the diet can lessen the effects of salt (sodium) on blood pressure. The best sources of potassium are foods, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. Aim for 3,500 to 5,000 mg a day, which might lower blood pressure 4 to 5 mm Hg. Ask your care provider how much potassium you should have.
- Reduce salt (sodium) in your diet
Even a small reduction of sodium in the diet can improve heart health and reduce high blood pressure by about 5 to 6 mm Hg. The effect of sodium intake on blood pressure varies among groups of people. In general, limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams (mg or one teaspoon) a day or less. However, a lower sodium intake — 1,500 mg (about two-thirds of a teaspoon) a day or less — is ideal for most adults.
1) Read food labels. 2) Avoid /Eat fewer processed foods. 3) Do not add table salt. 4) Cook yourself.
5) Limit alcohol
Limiting alcohol to less than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men can help lower blood pressure by about 4 mm Hg. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. But drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure by several points.
- Quit smoking
Smoking increases blood pressure. Stopping smoking helps lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and improve overall health, possibly leading to a longer life.
- Get a good night’s sleep
Poor sleep quality or getting fewer than six hours of sleep every night for several weeks can contribute to hypertension. Sleep issues like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and general sleeplessness (insomnia) can disrupt sleep. Let your health care provider know if you often have trouble sleeping.
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up the same time each day.
- Create a restful space. Keep the sleeping space cool, quiet and dark. Do something relaxing such as taking a warm bath or doing relaxation exercises, meditation, or listening to music in the hour before bedtime and avoid bright light, such as from a TV or computer screen.
- Watch what you eat and drink. Do not go to bed hungry or stuffed. Avoid large meals, nicotine, caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, as well.
- Limit naps. Avoid or limit naps to 30 minutes earlier in the day to have a good sleep at night.
- Reduce stress
Long-term (chronic) emotional stress such as work, family, finances or illness may contribute to high blood pressure. Therefore, find ways to reduce stress. Try the following:
- Avoid trying to do too much. Plan your day and focus on your priorities. Learn to say no. Allow enough time to get done what needs to be done.
- Focus on issues you can control and make plans to solve them. For an issue at work, talk to a supervisor. For conflict with kids or spouse, find ways to resolve it.
- Avoid stress triggers. For example, if rush-hour traffic causes stress, travel at a different time or take public transportation. Avoid people who cause stress if possible.
- Make time to relax. Take time each day to sit quietly and breathe deeply. Make time for enjoyable activities or hobbies, such as taking a walk, cooking or volunteering.
- Practice gratitude. Expressing gratitude to others can help reduce stress.
- Monitor your blood pressure at home and get regular checkups
Home monitoring can help make certain your medications and lifestyle changes are working.
Home blood pressure monitors are available easily available and talk to a health care provider about home monitoring device use and its frequency in a day before you get started. Regular visits with a care provider are also key to controlling blood pressure.
- Get support
Family and friends play an important role in maintaining your good health. They may encourage you to take care of yourself, drive you to the doctor’s office or start an exercise program to keep your blood pressure low. Be in the company of positive people, who can give you an emotional, or morale boost and who can offer practical tips to cope with your condition.