Except for aging and having a family history of hypertension, all the things that cause high blood pressure are within your control.
That’s why Dr. James Batey and our team of experts at Premier Primary Care in Union City, Tennessee, urge our patients with hypertension to adopt lifestyle changes to lower their blood pressure, reduce their health risks, and avoid taking drugs for the rest of their lives.
Here are the most effective lifestyle changes you can make to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range — no higher than 120/80.
Maintain a healthy weight
When you pack on extra pounds, the numbers on the scale aren’t the only ones you need to watch — being overweight sends your blood pressure numbers higher, too. The good news is that losing just a little over two pounds can have a direct positive effect on your blood pressure by dropping it by about 1 mm Hg.
Follow the DASH diet
If you have high blood pressure, a few dietary changes can lower your numbers significantly. The DASH diet — dietary approaches to stop hypertension — has been shown to decrease blood pressure by 11 mm Hg.
The DASH diet consists of whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. That means you need to eliminate or cut way back on saturated fats and high cholesterol foods. Following this plan can also increase your potassium intake, another essential nutrient that keeps blood pressure in check.
One of the main contributors to hypertension is a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting at a desk all day and moving to the couch in the evening wreaks havoc on your health. On the other hand, all it takes is a little movement regularly to bring your numbers down — getting your heart rate up 30 minutes a day can improve your blood pressure by 5-8 mm Hg.
Eat less salt
Sodium sends your blood pressure through the roof. And most people don’t even realize that their diet is laden with salt. That's because it hides in processed foods, fast food, and canned goods. Once you start reading the nutrition labels on the food you buy, you’ll start to see a pattern — The American diet is highly salty.
The American Heart Association recommends most people shoot for consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. Sadly, the average American eats more than 3,400 milligrams of salt every day, which is 1,100 milligrams too many. And if you have high blood pressure, that number exceeds the recommended limit by 1,900 milligrams.
To make these numbers a little more relatable: 1 teaspoon of table salt contains 2,325 milligrams of sodium. Do you salt your food as you cook? Do you salt again at the table? Do you use salted butter? Is there sodium in the canned beans you dumped into the pot? How about the chicken stock you poured in?
You can see how easy it is to consume too much salt without realizing it. However, reducing your sodium intake can lower your blood pressure without drugs.
Cut back on caffeine and alcohol
How many cups of Joe does it take to start your day? That little habit may raise your blood pressure. While caffeine doesn’t affect everyone the same way, it’s one of the main culprits behind hypertension.
You can check to see if you’re one of them by drinking a caffeinated beverage and then measuring your blood pressure about a half an hour later. If you see an increase of 5-10 milligrams, then you can be pretty sure caffeine affects your blood pressure, and you should cut back or eliminate it.
Alcohol has an interesting link to blood pressure. In small amounts, it can lower your blood pressure. What’s a small amount? For men, that’s about two drinks a day, and for women, it’s about one drink. On the flip side, drinking more than that has the opposite effect and raises your blood pressure.
Ever notice how your heart races when you confront someone or sit in traffic? That’s stress. And if you live with it day in and day out, it can start to damage your heart and increase your blood pressure. If you cope with stress by binging on unhealthy food, smoking, or drinking, it worsens the problem.
Do your best to reduce stressful situations in your life, and find ways to cope with normal stress in healthier ways. Exercise is a great way to reverse the physical effects of stress, and so are yoga, meditation, music, prayer, and breathing exercises.
If medication becomes necessary, Dr. Batey monitors you closely. Often, the healthy changes we outlined above can reduce or eliminate your need for prescriptions. Learn more about how to safeguard your health and your life by keeping your blood pressure in check — call us today or book online.