High blood pressure affects almost half of all adult Americans and it puts you at risk for heart attacks and strokes. There are lifestyle changes you can make that may prevent or control high blood pressure and improve your overall health. Making these changes can reduce or delay your need for medications to control your blood pressure.
Here are 8 things you can do to lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of other chronic conditions and certain cancers, and improve your health.
1. Eat well
- Eating healthy has many benefits. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is one well known diet used to control blood pressure. The DASH diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and reduced saturated and total fat. It recommends limiting foods high in saturated fats (red meat, full-fat dairy), as well as sugary beverages and desserts.
- There are many heart healthy options to support a healthy and balanced diet. Adopting a diet, such as the DASH diet can reduce your blood pressure as much as 5-11 mmHg. Heart healthy diets can also lower your risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.
2. Stay active
- Aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. You could plan for 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Shorter sessions like 3 sessions of 10 minutes each count and add up, too!
- Make sure you are working hard enough. Use the talk test. If you can talk easily, challenge yourself more by moving faster or adding more resistance.
- Get stronger. Strength work makes your body more efficient overall. Try to get 2 strength workouts in each week.
- Exercise can reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure as much as 5-7 mmHg
3. Reduce your sodium
4. Reduce or eliminate alcohol
- Limit alcohol. Decreasing alcohol intake can help you manage your weight, decrease your blood pressure, and reduces your risk of many cancers.
- If you currently drink more than two drinks per day, reducing or eliminating alcohol can reduce blood pressure as much as 5 mmHg
5. Quit smoking
6. Manage your stress
- While we can’t eliminate stress in our lives, we can find ways to manage it. Some examples include relaxation techniques (such as breathing exercises, yoga, meditation), strengthening social support, as well as ideas mentioned here such as getting good sleep and staying active.
- Studies show that decreasing stress, through mindfulness and meditation, can reduce blood pressure and improve mood.
7. Get good sleep
- Sleep is foundational to health and wellbeing. Establish healthy sleep habits like having a consistent sleep schedule, aiming for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and keeping your room quiet, dark, and cool. Avoid consuming caffeine and alcohol, and consider reducing fluid intake before bedtime.
- While we know that getting enough good quality sleep is important for good health, it’s not know how much it impacts your blood pressure.
8. Monitor your blood pressure
- Not only does monitoring your blood pressure help you track your goal and progress, but monitoring in and of itself may also lower blood pressure.
- Home monitoring of blood pressure can lower blood pressure. People who monitor their blood pressure at home are more likely to get it under control when working with their care team. Better studies are needed to establish long-term benefits, however know that every time you’re checking your blood pressure, it’s a win-win!
You’ve got this
Remember that all of these strategies work to improve your overall health, both physical and mental. Creating habits isn’t easy but it can be rewarding. Celebrate small wins and try to embrace the changes as a way to reach your best health.
Reach out to your healthcare provider if you have any questions on specific recommendations or options that are best for you.
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- CDC. High Blood Pressure Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published September 27, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm
- FDA. Sodium in Your Diet. FDA. Published online April 2, 2020. https://www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-education-resources-materials/sodium-your-diet
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- Tsai SY, Huang WH, Chan HL, Hwang LC. The role of smoking cessation programs in lowering blood pressure: A retrospective cohort study. Tobacco Induced Diseases. 2021;19(October):1-9. doi:10.18332/tid/142664
- UpToDate. www.uptodate.com. Accessed July 29, 2022. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/low-sodium-diet-beyond-the-basics