The complications associated with uncontrolled hypertension are serious. Stroke, heart failure, heart attack, and kidney damage have all been linked to high blood pressure. By making some lifestyle changes, you can avoid those complications and reduce your blood pressure.
The highly skilled and knowledgeable experts at Heart & Vascular Institute would prefer to see you become healthier without the need for medication, and if your blood pressure is borderline, they may suggest these lifestyle interventions as a first step.
Medications can also be an important tool as you begin to make the changes necessary to remain healthy, and a combination of lifestyle changes and medication can be a powerful way to reclaim your health.
What is high blood pressure?
When blood flows through your vessels more forcefully than it should, the walls of the vessels may become damaged. This is why it’s important to get regular blood pressure readings.
It’s helpful to understand what the numbers that represent your blood pressure mean. The top number is your systolic blood pressure, and the bottom number is your diastolic blood pressure. Here are the stages of hypertension:
- Normal: less than 120/80
- Elevated: 120-129/less than 80
- Hypertension stage 1: 130-139/80-89
- Hypertension stage 2: 140 or higher/90 or higher
- Hypertensive crisis: higher than 180/120 or higher
If your blood pressure is elevated or you’ve reached hypertension, changing your diet and other lifestyle factors can benefit your health significantly. Here are some simple changes you can make.
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1. Change your diet
Consume less sodium. When you begin to read food labels, you learn that there’s sodium in practically everything. But your body only needs a small amount to function properly. You should aim to consume 1,500 or fewer milligrams of sodium per day if you have hypertension.
Often, it’s easier to accomplish lowering your sodium if you focus on other dietary changes. Increase the amount of fresh vegetables and fruit you consume; avoid prepared, processed, and fast foods.
A balanced diet also includes lean protein and healthy whole grains. You may find it useful to follow a diet such as the Meditteranean diet or the DASH diet to get a good idea of what healthy nutrition looks like.
2. Stop smoking
Smoking is bad for your health, but you probably already know that. Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to protect your vascular system and it can have an immediate impact on your blood pressure.
If you’ve struggled to quit, talk to your cardiologist. We may have suggestions that can help you.
3. Reduce stress
It’s so easy to tell others to lower their stress, but when confronted with your own life and stress levels, you may struggle with how, exactly, you can. First, take it one step at a time. You can address your stress level in sections.
You can’t control external events, but you can learn to control your reaction to them. For example, certain breathing techniques can help lower overall stress levels. You may want to try yoga or meditation. Even 5-10 minutes a day can make a difference.
You may also want to take a hard look at your schedule. Are there commitments you could step away from? Do you schedule time for hobbies and relaxation? Look for ways to remove stress and add relaxation.
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4. Get regular exercise
Exercise has multiple benefits when it comes to hypertension.
First, aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, jogging, swimming, and biking, improves your heart health. It also can help you maintain a healthy weight, another important lifestyle factor in reducing hypertension. Finally, regular exercise also helps to reduce stress.
If you’ve struggled to maintain a regular exercise routine in the past, consider activities that you enjoy. You may detest the idea of jogging, but enjoy hiking in nature. Perhaps swimming is something you enjoy.
The most important part of exercise is finding something you enjoy doing enough to keep on doing it!
If you’d like to learn more about hypertension and what you can do on your own to control your blood pressure, our team at Heart & Vascular Institute is happy to help.
You can schedule an appointment at any of our three convenient locations, in Dearborn, Detroit, and Southfield, Michigan, either online or by phone.