If you’re like many Americans – about 100 million, or almost half of all adults, according to the American Heart Association – you have high blood pressure. It basically means that your heart has to work too hard to pump blood throughout your body.
Over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney problems, and even dementia.
If high blood pressure sounds serious, it is, especially if it’s left to rise. However, finding out if you have it is easy: when you see a doctor, one of the first things they do is check your blood pressure with that inflatable cuff known as a sphygmomanometer.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to reduce your blood pressure and improve your heart health.
Engaging in at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise a day is one of the best ways to lower your blood pressure. Don’t worry about joining a gym: taking a walk, hike, or bike ride outdoors is a great way to get cardio. Every bit helps
Smoking, using chew or dip, vaping, or any tobacco or nicotine consumption immediately raises your blood pressure. Many of these substances contain chemicals that damage your heart (and many other parts of your body).
Cut Back on Your Drinking
Many people who enjoy a drink or two say that it helps them feel less stressed. You’ve also probably read that having a glass of wine is good for your heart. Unfortunately, there’s no hard scientific evidence that shows that any alcoholic beverage can actually lower your blood pressure. If you drink, do so in moderation: no more than one drink a day for women, or two for men.
Use Less Salt
Cutting the amount of salt you add to your food is a step in the right direction. But even if you stop adding it to your meals, you may still be getting an unhealthy amount of salt. These tips can help you sweep out the sodium.
- Read food labels. The ingredient you want to look at it sodium. You will be shocked to learn how much is in foods that aren’t very salty, like bread, sauces, ketchup, and even breakfast cereal. Look for low-sodium alternatives.
- Cut back on processed food. Food naturally doesn’t have much sodium, but when food is processed with additives, sodium is added. Lunch meats, canned soups, snack foods like chips and crackers, and pasta meals (like mac and cheese in a box or canned spaghetti) are among the highest in sodium.
- You don’t have to do it all at once. Cut back gradually – if you find your food’s too bland, try adding some spices and seasonings to shake up your taste buds. Eventually, you’ll find that many foods are too salty for you, and you’ll crave them less.
Watch Your Weight – and Your Waist
There’s a direct link between weight and blood pressure: according to the National Institutes of Health, when your body weight increases, your blood pressure rises. If you’re overweight or obese, even dropping a small amount of weight can reduce your blood pressure.
If you carry your extra weight in your stomach (if you’re apple-shaped rather than pear-shaped), you may be 22% more likely to have high blood pressure. The diet and exercise tips above can help you reduce your weight and your waistline but ask your doctor about realistic goals based on your health history.
Drink Fewer Caffeinated Beverages
Even though caffeine has some health benefits, not everyone can tolerate it. For many people, a cup of coffee or a soda may be enough to spike their blood pressure. If you’re looking to stay hydrated, consider some of these healthy beverages.
Keep Your Stress Down
Science still isn’t 100% sure of why stress and high blood pressure are linked; it could be that when people are stressed, they eat unhealthy foods and drink more. If you have high blood pressure, learning how to control your stress may help lower it, cut your risks for other conditions, as well as helping you reduce your number of headaches, colds, and sleepless nights.
Think You Have High Blood Pressure? Call Us
For those who do have high blood pressure, regular checkups can ensure it’s in an acceptable range and then take action if it’s not. Some people may need medication to control their blood pressure but making healthy lifestyle changes should always be the first course of action. Call us to schedule an appointment and get personalized recommendations that can help your heart grow healthy.