How to Lower High Blood Pressure (HBP)
During your usual check up at the doctor’s office, you find out you have high blood pressure, yet you had no symptoms and feel fine. Because high blood pressure (HBP) doesn’t cause symptoms, patients are unaware of the risks.
Blood pressure is the force that pushes blood through the blood vessels in your body. In people who have high blood pressure, blood is pushed through the blood vessels with greater force than normal. Another word for high blood pressure is hypertension.
According to the National, Heart Lung and Blood Institute, 1 in 3 adults in the United States have HBP. Untreated HBP can cause damage to your body’s organs. High blood pressure can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems. Addressing the condition is important, and there are simple tips that patients can use to lower their blood pressure.
A few lifestyle changes may reduce blood pressure and, in the long run, these changes may help prevent heart disease. If these changes do not reduce blood pressure, medication may have to be introduced as part of a treatment. Here are some tips:
- Don’t smoke cigarettes or use any tobacco products.
- Eat a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables and is low in fat.
- Lose weight, if you’re overweight.
- Exercise regularly.
- Limit your sodium, alcohol and caffeine intake.
- Try relaxation techniques.
Nicotine in tobacco products prevents blood flow to the heart by constricting the blood vessels, causing the heart to beat faster. This leads to high blood pressure; however, cutting out tobacco use can significantly decrease high blood pressure along with the risks of heart disease.
Eating Healthy/Losing Weight
By replacing foods high in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol with fruits and vegetables, blood pressure can be lowered or maintained. Changes to a diet can be gradual, such as eating half the amount of butter you usually do or eating an apple instead of a cookie.
Overweight and obese individuals are more likely to have HBP. As your weight increases so does your blood pressure. Reducing weight by just 10 pounds can help decrease HBP. Having a target weight and eating smaller portions are a good start to losing weight. Physical activity also helps with weight loss and is very important to heart health.
Increasing physical activity is crucial to lowering blood pressure, and it helps prevent many other health complications. Incorporating daily activity is not very hard and often it can be achieved by daily chores, such as shoveling snow for 15 minutes or gardening for 30-45 minutes. Choosing the staircase over the elevator is another way to be physically active without going to the gym.
Ideally, 30 minutes of physical activity every day is best. If you have an existing heart condition or have trouble doing moderate-level activity, you should consult your physician before trying any exercises because over exertion may lead to more serious health problems.
Limiting Sodium, Alcohol and Caffeine Intake
Sodium does affect some people but not everyone. Individuals with HBP should limit their sodium intake to less than 2,400 milligrams per day and sometime less. Cutting back on salt may not sound appealing to some, but substituting herbs and spices for salt is a wonderful way to add flavor to food.
Onions, basil and garlic are just a few salt substitutes that do not compromise flavor. Also, labels on packaged food should be read carefully. Some foods have an unexpected high sodium content such as regular canned vegetables and frozen dinners. Instead, look for packages with the low-sodium label on them.
Like sodium, not everyone is affected by alcohol. Frequent, heavy alcohol intake causes HBP. If an individual is already at risk for HBP, it is better that they limit alcohol intake to one drink a day or no alcohol at all.
Caffeine also does not affect everybody, but people who consume large amounts of it may be affected. Caffeine is a mild stimulant and consuming large amounts of it can cause increased blood pressure for people who do not normally have HBP. In some cases, people build a tolerance to caffeine, and their blood pressure does not increase. Make sure to read package labels, because the amount of caffeine varies in different foods.
Stress and HBP
Stress may cause a temporary increase in blood pressure, but once the stress is gone, blood pressure returns to normal. There is no hard evidence that connects stress to long-term high blood pressure. When a person is stressed, the body releases hormones that cause the heart to beat faster and narrow the blood vessels. There is a possibility that constant stressful activities can damage the blood vessels, which can cause HBP.
All of these tips go hand-in-hand. Exercising limits stress, and it controls weight gain as well. Watching sodium intake is part of healthy eating, and alcohol should be avoided as a stress reliever.