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10 Ways to Control High Blood Pressure through Lifestyle Changes

Hypertension is known as the silent killer due to its lack of symptoms, yet it raises the risk of heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of mortality worldwide and other serious or potentially life-threatening conditions.

If you are one of the one-third of American adults who suffer from high blood pressure, you know how important it is to take steps to control it. High blood pressure can lead to a number of health problems, including heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. It is important to make lifestyle changes to control high blood pressure and reduce your risk of these health problems. Here are 10 ways to control high blood pressure through lifestyle changes:

1. Exercise regularly

Physical activity can help keep you at a healthy weight level and lower your blood pressure. Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling, every week.[1] Recently, about half of all American adults, or 117 million people have one or more preventable chronic diseases.[2]Seven of the ten most common chronic diseases benefit from regular physical activity.

Regular physical activity can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mmHg if you have high blood pressure. It is then important to be consistent because if you stop doing regular exercise, your blood pressure can rise again. Exercise can help you avoid developing hypertension. If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels. Some good examples of aerobic exercise are walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or dancing. You can also try high-intensity interval training. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. You should talk to your healthcare provider to develop an exercise program.

2. Eat a healthy diet

Every year, chronic diseases account for 70% of all deaths in the United States. Poor diets lead to chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.[3] Fast foods are generally high in calories, sodium, solid fat, added sugars, and refined grains. American diets can generally be improved if they followed dietary guidelines for healthy living.

Choose healthy meal and snack options to help you avoid high blood pressure and its complications. Eating a healthy diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products while avoiding saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 11 mmHg if you already have high blood pressure. This eating plan is commonly known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.

The DASH eating plan requires no special foods and instead provides daily and weekly nutritional goals.[4] This plan highly recommends eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains that include fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils.

You should limit the foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils as well as sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.

3. Keep yourself at a healthy weight

Being overweight or obese increases your risk for high blood pressure.[1] To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate your body mass index (BMI).  Body Mass Index (BMI) is about the person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters.[5] A high BMI can indicate excess body fat. A high amount of body fat can lead to weight-related diseases and other health issues.[6]Being underweight is also a health risk to be aware of.

If your BMI is less than 18.5, it indicates that you are in the underweight range. If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, it is within the normal or Healthy Weight range. If your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9, it is in the range of being overweight. If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it is within the obese range. [1] A weight greater than what is considered a healthy weight for a given height is described as overweight or obese. A weight that is lower than what is considered healthy for a given height is described as underweight.[1]

You can talk with your health care provider about ways to reach a healthy weight, including choosing healthy foods and getting regular physical activity. BMI can be used as a screening tool but is not diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual. A trained healthcare provider should perform appropriate health assessments in order to evaluate an individual’s health status and some risks.

4. Limit your alcohol intake

Excessive drinking both in the form of heavy drinking or binge drinking can gradually contribute to numerous health problems, including high blood pressure and even psychological disorders.[7]

Drinking too much alcohol can definitely harm your health. Excessive use of alcohol led to 95,000 deaths and 2.8 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2011 to 2015, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 29 years.[8]

Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications. Do not drink too much alcohol, especially if high blood pressure is a concern. Accordingly, men should have no more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day, and women should have no more than 1 alcoholic drink per day.[1]

5. Limit your caffeine intake

Caffeine can raise blood pressure up to 10 mmHg in people who consume it rarely.[9] But people who drink coffee regularly may experience little or no effect on their blood pressure. Although the long-term effects of caffeine on blood pressure are still not clear enough, it is still possible that blood pressure may slightly increase.

To check whether caffeine raises your blood pressure, try monitoring your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a caffeinated beverage. If your blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 mm Hg, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure-raising effects of caffeine. You can talk to your doctor about the effects of caffeine on your blood pressure.

6. Quit smoking

Smoking leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body. More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking. For every person who dies because of smoking, 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness. Smoking causes cancer, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also increases risks for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis.[10]

Furthermore, smoking increases your blood pressure and puts you at greater risk of heart attack and stroke.[1] If you do smoke, quitting will lead to lowering your risk for heart disease.

Smoking a cigarette increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. Stopping smoking will help your blood pressure return to normal. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health.

7. Manage your stress

Chronic stress is associated with high blood pressure. More research is needed to determine the exact effects of chronic stress on blood pressure.[9]Occasional stress can also contribute to high blood pressure if you react to stress by engaging in unhealthy habits like eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol, or smoking.

Take some time to think and focus your mind on what causes you to feel stressed, whether it be work, family, finances, or illness. Once you know the cause of your stress you can then consider how to eliminate or reduce stress. If you can’t eliminate all of your stressors, you can at least cope with them in a healthier way.

Planning your day and focusing on your priorities could be a great start managing your stress. Avoid trying to do too much or be under pressure. You should also learn to say no when presented with a situation you’d rather not be involved with. Understand there are some things you cannot change or control. You can also try avoiding stress triggers as possible. For instance, if you usually experience rush-hour traffic on the way to work which causes stress, try leaving earlier in the morning, or take public transportation. Make time to relax and do activities you love and enjoy. Practice the art of gratitude. Expressing gratitude to others can help reduce your stress.

8. Get enough sleep

Adults who sleep less than 7 hours each night are more likely to say they have had health problems, including heart attack, asthma, and depression.[3] Some of these health problems raise the risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. During normal sleep, your blood pressure goes down. Having sleep problems means your blood pressure stays higher for a longer period of time.[4] High blood pressure is one of the leading risks for heart disease and stroke. About 75 million Americans—1 in 3 adults—have high blood pressure.[5]Getting enough sleep is vital to overall health, and enough sleep is part of keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy.[1] Having a good sleep is not just important for your energy levels it is crucial for your heart health, too.[11]

Sleep is critical to good health because it helps your body repair itself. Getting enough good sleep also helps you function normally during the day. Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night.[1]However, more than 1 in 3 American adults say they do not get the recommended amount of sleep.[2] Not getting enough sleep over time can lead to serious health problems and make certain health problems worse.

9. Monitor your blood pressure regularly

Out of 75 million American adults who have high blood pressure, only about half (54%) of these people have their blood pressure under control.[12]

Regular check-ups with your doctor are an important way to monitor and control your blood pressure. Contact your doctor about how often you need to check your blood pressure. Your doctor may suggest checking it on a certain basis.

Monitoring your blood pressure regularly at home through remote patient monitoring (RPM) otherwise known as remote physiologic monitoring. Along with doctor’s visits, RPM can help you keep track of your blood pressure, make certain your lifestyle changes are working, and alert you and your doctor to potential health complications. Blood pressure monitors are available widely and without a prescription. Talk to your healthcare providers about home monitoring so they can get you get started.

RPM is an essential resource that patients can use to control their hypertension. RPM can help patients develop a consistent measurement technique, get them more involved in their health management, and record their readings consistently.

For healthcare providers, it offers data-driven insights into the patient’s blood pressure trends over time, helping the provider make informed decisions driven by trends. Through RPM, providers can be alerted in real-time when a blood pressure reading moves out of the patient’s ideal range.

10. Get support from family and friends

Support from family and friends can help improve your health. They may inspire and influence you to take care of yourself, drive you to the doctor’s office, or join an exercise program with you to keep everyone’s blood pressure low.

Having support from friends or family members sometimes is the deciding factor for an individual struggling to manage and control high blood pressure successfully.

Some tips on how you can help and support them are to first start the conversation, finding out what your loved one is already doing to control their high blood pressure and what you can do to support them immediately through asking some questions, providing emotional support, and being positive.

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Takeaway

Lifestyle changes like changing what you eat, exercising more, and taking your medicine can help you keep your blood pressure where it should be. You can help keep your blood pressure in a healthy range by living a healthy lifestyle or even making some simple changes to your lifestyle.

References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, February 24). Prevent high blood pressure. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/prevent.htm
  2. Home. Home of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://health.gov/
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 10). Access to healthy foods. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/healthy-food-environments/improving-access-to-healthier-food.html
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Dash eating plan. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/education/dash-eating-plan
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, June 7). Body mass index (BMI). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 17). Assessing your weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/index.html
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, February 16). Alcohol questions and answers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, October 1). Deaths and years of potential life lost from excessive alcohol use – United States, 2011–2015. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6939a6.htm
  9. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, February 24). 10 drug-free ways to control high blood pressure. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20046974
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, April 28). Health effects. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/health_effects/index.htm
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, January 4). How does sleep affect your heart health? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/sleep.htm?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Ffeatures%2Fsleep-heart-health%2Findex.html
  12. Tipsheet Lovedone general – Million Hearts®. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://millionhearts.hhs.gov/files/TipSheet_LovedOne_General.pdf

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