If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure (a systolic pressure the top number of 140 or above or a diastolic pressure the bottom number of 90 or above), you might be worried about taking medication to bring your numbers down.
Lifestyle plays an important role in treating your high blood pressure. If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you may avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication.
Here are these lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure and keep it down.
Avoid tobacco products and secondhand smoke
You should also avoid secondhand smoke. Inhaling smoke from others also puts you at risk of health problems, including high blood pressure and heart disease.
Cut back on caffeine
To see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a cup of coffee or another caffeinated beverage you regularly drink. If your blood pressure increases by five to 10 points, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine.
Eat a healthy diet
It isn't easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet:
- Be a smart shopper. Make a shopping list before heading to the supermarket to avoid picking up junk food. Read food labels when you shop and stick to your healthy-eating plan when you're dining out, too.
- Consider boosting potassium. Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is food, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. Talk to your doctor about the potassium level that's best for you.
- Cut yourself some slack. Although the DASH diet is a lifelong eating guide, it doesn't mean you have to cut out all of the foods you love. It's OK to treat yourself occasionally to foods you wouldn't find on a DASH diet menu, such as a candy bar or mashed potatoes with gravy.
- Keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat, even for just a week, can shed surprising light on your true eating habits. Monitor what you eat, how much, when and why.
Health Tips for High Blood Pressure - Controlling High Blood Pressure Without Medication. And it doesn't take long to see a difference. If you haven't been active, increasing your exercise level can lower your blood pressure within just a few weeks.
If you have prehypertension systolic pressure between 120 and 139 or diastolic pressure between 80 and 89 exercise can help you avoid developing full-blown hypertension. If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels.
Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program. Your doctor can help determine whether you need any exercise restrictions. Even moderate activity for 10 minutes at a time, such as walking and light strength training, can help.
But avoid being a "weekend warrior." Trying to squeeze all your exercise in on the weekends to make up for weekday inactivity isn't a good strategy. Those sudden bursts of activity could actually be risky.
Get support from family and friends
If you find you need support beyond your family and friends, consider joining a support group. This may put you in touch with people who can give you an emotional or morale boost and who can offer practical tips to cope with your condition.
Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
If you drink more than moderate amounts of it, alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of high blood pressure medications.
- Consider tapering off. If you're a heavy drinker, suddenly eliminating all alcohol can actually trigger severe high blood pressure for several days. So when you stop drinking, do it with the supervision of your doctor or taper off slowly, over one to two weeks.
- Don't binge. Binge drinking — having four or more drinks in a row — can cause large and sudden increases in blood pressure, in addition to other health problems.
- Track your drinking patterns. Along with your food diary, keep an alcohol diary to track your true drinking patterns. One drink equals 12 ounces (355 milliliters, or mL) of beer, 5 ounces of wine (148 mL) or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor (45 mL). If you're drinking more than the suggested amounts, cut back.
Besides shedding pounds, you should also keep an eye on your waistline. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high blood pressure. In general:
- Asian men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 36 inches (91 cm).
- Asian women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 32 inches (81 cm).
- Men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (102 centimeters, or cm).
- Women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (89 cm).
Regular visits to your doctor are also likely to become a part of your normal routine. These visits will help keep tabs on your blood pressure.
- Have a primary care doctor. People who don't have a primary care doctor find it harder to control their blood pressure. If you can, visit the same health care facility or professional for all of your health care needs.
- Visit your doctor regularly. If your blood pressure isn't well controlled, or if you have other medical problems, you might need to visit your doctor every month to review your treatment and make adjustments. If your blood pressure is under control, you might need to visit your doctor only every six to 12 months, depending on other conditions you might have.
Reduce sodium in your diet
Health Tips for High Blood Pressure - Controlling High Blood Pressure Without Medication. The recommendations for reducing sodium are:
- A lower sodium level 1,500 mg a day or less is appropriate for people 51 years of age or older, and individuals of any age who are African-American or who have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
- Limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less.
- Track how much salt is in your diet. Keep a food diary to estimate how much sodium is in what you eat and drink each day.
- Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy.
- Eat fewer processed foods. Potato chips, frozen dinners, bacon and processed lunch meats are high in sodium.
- Don't add salt. Just 1 level teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Use herbs or spices, rather than salt, to add more flavor to your foods.
- Ease into it. If you don't feel like you can drastically reduce the sodium in your diet suddenly, cut back gradually. Your palate will adjust over time.
Reduce your stress
If you can't eliminate all of your stressors, you can at least cope with them in a healthier way. Take breaks for deep-breathing exercises. Get a massage or take up yoga or meditation. If self-help doesn't work, seek out a professional for counseling.
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