High blood pressure affects approximately 1 in 3 American adults, and it’s the primary or contributing cause to hundreds of thousands of deaths in the United States every year. Among other things, high blood pressure increases one’s risk of heart attack, chronic heart failure, and stroke. Because of the seriously detrimental effect that high blood pressure has on one’s health, keeping it under control is absolutely vital. If you have high blood pressure, you should know that there are several strategies that you can use to control it effectively. Here are a few of them:
Studies have shown that blood pressure often increases with bodyweight. So, if you’re overweight, you might be able to get your blood pressure under control with diet alone; you might not even have to lose much weight in order to see a difference in your blood pressure! In fact, losing as little as 10 pounds could be enough to bring your blood pressure back down to healthy levels. In addition to cutting calories, you might want to consider limiting your sodium intake. The reason for this is that excess sodium in the diet causes fluid retention, something that should be avoided when trying to keep blood pressure under control.
For many people, diet alone simply isn’t enough to lose weight and lower blood pressure effectively. If you find that this is true for you, adopting a regular exercise program is a great way to shed those unwanted pounds faster. In addition to decreasing blood pressure by helping reduce your weight, exercise strengthens your heart, which enables it to pump blood with less effort. With less effort required to pump blood, less force is placed on your arteries, and your blood pressure will be lower as a result.
The type of exercise program you adopt isn’t especially important, but it’s important that you start slow and remain consistent. In as little as 3 months, you should start to see a noticeable difference in your blood pressure as well as in your overall health. Here are a few examples of activities to consider for your exercise program:
When diet and exercise alone aren’t enough to keep blood pressure down, medications are typically prescribed. The most commonly prescribed medications for high blood pressure are diuretics. Diuretics work with the kidneys to help the body excrete more water and sodium, effectively reducing blood volume. A variety of other medications can also be used to treat high blood pressure, including angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta blockers, calcium-channel blockers, and more. Your doctor will consider various factors when deciding which type of medication, or medications, will be right for you.
If you’re placed on medication to control your blood pressure, it’s important that you take them according to your doctor’s instructions. Many people start to taper off their blood-pressure medications once their blood pressure decreases; this shouldn’t be done without consulting your doctor first as it will likely cause your blood pressure to rise up again and could lead to other health issues. However, if you do manage to get your blood pressure down to a healthy level and feel that you can keep it there with lifestyle modifications, be sure to discuss this option with your doctor on your next visit!
Other Helpful Tips
With diet, exercise, and medication, most people are able to control their blood pressure effectively. However, there are still a few more things that can be done to control your blood pressure even better, including:
Drink Alcohol in Moderation: Drinking alcohol in moderation is fine. In fact, small amounts (two or less drinks per day) can actually help lower your blood pressure by 2 to 4 mm Hg.
Don’t Smoke: In addition to putting you at risk for a whole host of serious health issues, smoking increases blood pressure. If you do smoke and want to decrease your blood pressure, consider quitting for good.
Reduce Stress: In small doses, stress is normal and healthy. Chronic stress, on the other hand, contributes to high blood pressure and is detrimental to your overall health. If you feel stressed constantly, try to isolate the cause and eliminate it if possible.
Use a Home Blood-Pressure Monitor: Keeping your blood pressure under control is much easier if you monitor it regularly. Purchase a blood-pressure monitor and use it daily so that you know how well your interventions are working.
May is National Blood Pressure Education Month, so be sure to share this information with colleagues, patients, friends, and family.
Do you have high blood pressure or know patients that do? What methods have you found to be the most helpful in keeping it controlled? Be sure to leave a comment below to share your experience with others!