Five Ways to Improve Blood Pressure
Hypertension can result from several factors, so having high blood pressure usually means that some amount of thought and work needs to be put into one or multiple areas of your life. Whether you need to focus on what you eat, your activity levels, or the things in life that are causing you stress, you can use the following strategies to set yourself in the right direction.
1. Healthy Diet
Much of your blood pressure numbers are driven by what you eat. Eat less sodium, processed sugar, and red meat, and more vegetables, whole grains, and lean poultry. This can go a long way toward curbing high blood pressure and improving overall heart health.
Click here to read our full guide on improving blood pressure through healthy eating.
If this is a completely different diet than what you are used to, take things slow at first and find out what works for you. As a rule of thumb, it is recommended that you talk to your doctor before making any drastic lifestyle changes, which can include your diet.
2. Physical Activity
Introducing more physical activity in your life doesn’t have to mean going to the gym every day or setting up a strict exercise routine. Of course, if you want to do these things, that is great! But what really matters is that for 5 days out of the week, you are at least doing something that makes you breathe a little harder and makes your heart beat a little faster.
When it comes to exercising with high blood pressure, it’s best to be careful and take things slow. Start with 5 minutes of walking or stretching as a warm up, followed by 30 minutes of moderate activity. This can be a brisk walk, swim, bike ride, or even yard work or other active hobby. Use your imagination and make it something you enjoy. When you’re done, cool down by slowing your activity for a few minutes before stopping.
Talk to your doctor to determine the right amount of activity for you, especially if you are hypertensive.
3. Manage stress
Stressful situations can do more than simply put you in a state of emotional discomfort. The chemicals and hormones released by your body when you are stressed increases the heart rate and constricts the blood vessels, making your blood pressure go up temporarily. This might not be such a problem when dealing with individual stressful situations, but those who are chronically stressed may experience more of these blood pressure spikes and more sustained elevation of blood pressure, leading to higher blood pressure overall. Not only that, but stress can drive us to bad coping habits that lead to even higher blood pressure, such as unhealthy eating, alcohol and drug use, and a loss of will to be active.
If you feel that stress is having a real negative impact on your health, there are several ways to help reduce stress and also improve your health in other ways:
- Take time to relax and breathe throughout the day.
- Take some things off your plate and simplify your schedule.
- Get more sleep.
- Try yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness exercises.
- Find a shift in perspective.
- If chronic stress is a big problem for you, don’t be afraid to seek extra help from a doctor or a therapist.
4 . Avoid excessive alcohol
Drinking alcohol in more than moderate amounts can raise blood pressure by several points, and also make blood pressure medication less effective. Therefore, whether you are working on lowering your blood pressure or are already hypertensive, drinking too much will definitely work against you. Try to stick to moderate consumption of one or two drinks a day.
5. Avoid tobacco
It is well known that smoking a cigarette causes your blood pressure to rise for some time, even after you’re finished. This can add up and cause sustained blood pressure elevation throughout much of the day, especially for moderate and heavy smokers. By avoiding cigarettes, you can help even out your blood pressure level and greatly reduce your risk of heart disease and other future complications.
Remember to keep monitoring!
Remember to maintain your self-monitoring schedule as you slowly make these healthy changes to your daily habits. By continuing to monitor, you will be able to see for yourself how much of an effect your behavior has on your blood pressure measurements. Use these changes to determine what is working best for you.
And most importantly, DON’T QUIT! Progress may be slow going at first, but your future-self will be grateful for sticking with it.