High blood pressure, or hypertension, is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney damage, and even cognitive decline. It’s often called the, “silent killer” because heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with hypertension, medication may be necessary to bring your blood pressure down. However, there are several healthy habits you can adopt that can lower your blood pressure, helping you delay or even entirely circumvent the need for medicine.
Eat a healthy diet
While there’s some overlap, counting calories and eating a healthy diet are unfortunately not perfectly synonymous. At the end of the day, it’s still important to eat a varied diet, particularly if you are looking to lower your blood pressure. A low-calorie diet full of cholesterol and saturated fats could still contribute to hypertension. Diets that includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, on the other hand, can help you control your blood pressure, especially if you also reduce your sodium intake. High-sodium foods are common in America. One way to get on top of your sodium intake is to eat fewer processed foods, cook food yourself, and of course, keep a close eye on food labels.
Increase physical activity
Physical activity is associated with a wide range of tremendous health benefits, including lower blood pressure. When you increase your heart and breathing rates, your heart becomes stronger and requires less effort to pump blood, thus putting less pressure on your arteries. Aerobic exercise is particularly effective, including cycling, dancing, jogging, or swimming. Resistance training is also helpful. The important thing is to choose an activity you enjoy, otherwise it will be tough to stick to it. If you’re currently sedentary, don’t feel like you need to jump into intensive exercise. Start with something you can manage, even if it’s as simple as taking the stairs or walking instead of driving.
Losing weight also comes with lots of health benefits and, fortunately, tends to go hand in hand with exercise — so you may be able to knock out two birds with one stone. Blood pressure rises significantly along with weight, so that even losing a small amount can make a difference. Being overweight can also disrupt breathing while you sleep, which is another contributor to hypertension. The most effective way to lose weight is to expend more calories than you take in. Simply counting calories may be enough to get you started. You may be surprised at how calorie-rich some foods and drinks — sugary sodas and alcohol in particular — can be.
Chronic stress is associated with high blood pressure. Sadly, there’s no tried-and-true method for reducing stress that works for everyone, though there are a variety of healthy habits you can adopt that, all together, can still make a big difference — including some already mentioned like exercising and eating a healthy diet. Practicing gratitude, meditation, mindfulness, and yoga have all been shown to reduce stress. Avoiding stress triggers and spending more time in nature are also effective at reducing stress for many people.
High blood pressure is a common problem with many causes, and the best way to address it depends on your unique situation. Work with your healthcare provider to come up with exercise and diet plans, as well as other strategies, to reduce hypertension in the manner most realistic and effective for you.