Managing Blood Pressure - A Heart Healthy Discussion
Understanding your blood pressure may be the most important thing you can do to protect your heart and your overall health.
The American Heart Association® estimates that one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, often called the “silent killer.”
Lifestyle plays a very important role in your overall heart health and treating your high blood pressure. By controlling your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you may avoid, delay or reduce the need for medicine.
Check out these tips on how to better manage your blood pressure.
- Watch your waistline and lose excess weight.
Your blood pressure often increases as weight increases. In the same way, the more weight you lose, you may lower your blood pressure. Read our ‘Maintaining a Healthy Weight’ article for more tips.
- Exercise regularly.
You should have a general goal to exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. If you are getting less than 150 minutes of exercise a week, you need to increase your activity. Before starting, talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program.
- Eat a healthy diet.
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products can help lower your blood pressure. You also need to watch the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in the foods you are consuming. If you are considering making a change to your diet, you may benefit from seeing a dietitian that can help create an individualized meal plan to help you reach your goal. Read our ‘Five Steps to Eating Healthy’ article for more tips.
- Reduce sodium in your diet.
By making a small reduction in your sodium intake it can help reduce blood pressure. You should try to keep your sodium level low – around 2,000 to 4,000 mg a day or less for people 51 years of age or older, and individuals of any age who are African-American or who have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
- Limit alcohol intake.
You need to try to limit the amount of alcohol you drink – generally no more than one drink a day for all women, and men older than age 65. Men age 65 and younger should limit themselves to two drinks a day or less. If you drink more, alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of high blood pressure medicines.
- Avoid tobacco products including secondhand smoke.
In addition to all the other dangers of smoking, the nicotine in tobacco products can raise your blood pressure for up to an hour after you smoke. If you smoke throughout the day, your blood pressure may remain constantly high. Click here for more information on smoking cessation programs available at Bronson.
- Cut back on caffeine.
Drinking caffeinated beverages can temporarily cause a spike in your blood pressure. To see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a cup of coffee or another caffeinated beverage you regularly drink.
- Reduce your stress.
Stress or anxiety can temporarily increase blood pressure. 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. Take breaks for deep-breathing exercises.
- Monitor your blood pressure at home and see your doctor on a regular basis.
If you have high blood pressure, you may need to monitor your blood pressure at home. Learning to self-monitor your blood pressure with an upper arm monitor can help motivate you. Talk to your doctor about home monitoring before getting started. Regular visits to your doctor are also likely to become a part of your normal routine. These visits will help keep tabs on your blood pressure.
- Seek out support from family and friends to ensure your success.
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. Talk to your family and friends about the dangers of high blood pressure.
The Bronson Heart & Vascular team is committed to heart and vascular disease prevention, and sharing easy steps you can take to live a healthier life. Looking for a Bronson doctor to help you? For a complete list of providers at Bronson, visit bronsonhealth.com/find-a-doctor or call Bronson HealthAnswers at (269) 341-7723.