10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication

Lifestyle
plays an important role in treating your high blood pressure. If you
successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you
might avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication.


 

Here are 10 lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure and keep it down.

1. Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline

Blood
pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight also can
cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea), which further
raises your blood pressure.

Weight loss is one of the most
effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure. Losing even a
small amount of weight if you’re overweight or obese can help reduce
your blood pressure. In general, you may reduce your blood pressure by
about 1 millimeter of mercury (mm Hg) with each kilogram (about 2.2
pounds) of weight you lose.

Besides shedding pounds, you generally
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:

  • Men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (102 centimeters).
  • Women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (89 centimeters).

These numbers vary among ethnic groups. Ask your doctor about a healthy waist measurement for you.

2. Exercise regularly

Regular
physical activity — such as 150 minutes a week, or about 30 minutes
most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm
Hg if you have high blood pressure. It’s important to be consistent
because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again.

If
you have elevated blood pressure, 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
examples of aerobic exercise you may try to lower blood pressure
include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. You can also try
high-intensity interval training, which involves alternating short
bursts of intense activity with subsequent recovery periods of lighter
activity. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Aim to
include strength training exercises at least two days a week. Talk to
your doctor about developing an exercise program.

3. Eat a healthy diet

Eating
a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat
dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower
your blood pressure by up to 11 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure.
This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension
(DASH) diet.

It isn’t easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Be a smart shopper. Read food labels when you shop and stick to your healthy-eating plan when you’re dining out, too.

4. Reduce sodium in your diet

Even
a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can improve your heart
health and reduce blood pressure by about 5 to 6 mm Hg if you have high
blood pressure.

The effect of sodium intake on blood pressure
varies among groups of people. In general, limit sodium to 2,300
milligrams (mg) a day or less. However, a lower sodium intake — 1,500 mg
a day or less — is ideal for most adults.

To decrease sodium in your diet, consider these tips:

  • Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy.
  • Eat fewer processed foods. Only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in foods. Most sodium is added during processing.
  • Don’t add salt. Just 1 level teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Use herbs or spices to add flavor to your food.
  • Ease into it. If
    you don’t feel you can drastically reduce the sodium in your diet
    suddenly, cut back gradually. Your palate will adjust over time.

5. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink

Alcohol
can be both good and bad for your health. By drinking alcohol only in
moderation — generally one drink a day for women, or two a day for men —
you can potentially lower your blood pressure by about 4 mm Hg. One
drink equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of
80-proof liquor.

But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol.

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.

6. Quit smoking

Each cigarette you
smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish.
Stopping smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal. Quitting
smoking can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall
health. People who quit smoking may live longer than people who never
quit smoking.

7. Cut back on caffeine

The role caffeine
plays in blood pressure is still debated. Caffeine can raise blood
pressure up to 10 mm Hg in people who rarely consume it. 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 aren’t clear, it’s possible blood pressure may slightly increase.

To
see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check 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. Talk to your doctor about the effects of
caffeine on your blood pressure.

8. Reduce your stress

Chronic
stress may contribute to high blood pressure. More research is needed
to determine the effects of chronic stress on blood pressure. Occasional
stress also can contribute to high blood pressure if you react to
stress by eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol or smoking.

Take
some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as
work, family, finances or illness. Once you know what’s causing your
stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress.

If you can’t eliminate all of your stressors, you can at least cope with them in a healthier way. Try to:

  • Change your expectations. For
    example, plan your day and focus on your priorities. Avoid trying to do
    too much and learn to say no. Understand there are some things you
    can’t change or control, but you can focus on how you react to them.
  • Focus on issues you can control and make plans to solve them. If
    you are having an issue at work, try talking to your manager. If you
    are having a conflict with your kids or spouse, take steps to resolve
    it.
  • Avoid stress triggers. Try to avoid
    triggers when you can. For example, if rush-hour traffic on the way to
    work causes stress, try leaving earlier in the morning, or take public
    transportation. Avoid people who cause you stress if possible.
  • Make time to relax and to do activities you enjoy. Take
    time each day to sit quietly and breathe deeply. Make time for
    enjoyable activities or hobbies in your schedule, such as taking a walk,
    cooking or volunteering.
  • Practice gratitude. Expressing gratitude to others can help reduce your stress.

9. Monitor your blood pressure at home and see your doctor regularly

Home
monitoring can help you keep tabs on 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 doctor about home
monitoring before you get started.

Regular visits with your doctor
are also key to controlling your blood pressure. If your blood pressure
is well-controlled, check with your doctor about how often you need to
check it. Your doctor may suggest checking it daily or less often. If
you’re making any changes in your medications or other treatments, your
doctor may recommend you check your blood pressure starting two weeks
after treatment changes and a week before your next appointment.

10. Get support

Supportive
family and friends can help improve your health. They may encourage you
to take care of yourself, drive you to the doctor’s office or embark on
an exercise program with you to keep your blood pressure low.

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.

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