Practical Steps to Lower Your Blood Pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common condition that will catch up with most people at some time in their lives. If blood pressure is left untreated there is an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.
High blood pressure is sometimes called a silent killer because it may have no symptoms for many years.
Normal blood pressure is below 120/80, while higher results over time can indicate hypertension. In most cases, the underlying cause of hypertension is unknown. There is an increased risk of hypertension if a close family member has high blood pressure or if you are diabetic.
African-Americans are more likely to develop hypertension, and they often develop the condition at a younger age.
Non-medical suggestions for lowering blood pressure
Sodium, a major component of salt, can raise blood pressure by causing the body to retain fluid, which leads to a greater burden on the heart. I recommend consuming less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. This can be easily accomplished by avoiding processed foods such as canned soups, chips, pretzels and lunchmeats.
Stress can make one's blood pressure spike, but there's no evidence that it causes high blood pressure as an ongoing condition.
Being overweight places a strain on the heart and increases your risk of high blood pressure. That is why diets to lower blood pressure are often designed to reduce calories. They typically call for cutting fatty foods and added sugars, while increasing fruits, vegetables, lean protein and fiber. I suggest a BMI less than 25. (You can easily calculate your BMI at http://www.smartbmicalculator.com/)
Drinking excessive alcohol can increase your blood pressure. Men should have no more than two drinks a day or one alcoholic drink a day for women.
Caffeine can also raise your blood pressure. You can safely drink one or two cups a day.
Hypertension during pregnancy occurs in the second half of pregnancy in women, even who do not have a history of high blood pressure. Without treatment, it may lead to a serious condition called preeclampsia that endangers both the mother and baby. Therefore, it is imperative that you have your blood pressure monitored regularly, if you are pregnant.
Cold and flu medicines may cause blood pressure to rise and these over-the-counter medicines should be avoided, especially if you are taking medication for hypertension.
Then there’s the doctor’s white coat. Some people only have a high reading in the doctor's office, perhaps because they're nervous. If that is the case, you can have a more accurate reading if you take your blood pressure at home.
You may be able to lower your blood pressure by switching to a better diet. The DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) involves eating more fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, low-fat dairy, fish, poultry and nuts. You should eat less red meat, saturated fats and processed food.
Regular exercise helps lower blood pressure. Adults should get about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week. That could include gardening, walking briskly, bicycling or other aerobic exercise.
Botttom Line: Hypertension is often a life-long condition. It's important to take your medications and continue to monitor your blood pressure. If you keep it under control, you can reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease and kidney failure.