What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, refers to a persistent, increased pressure in your arteries. This increased pressure can cause your arteries to become scarred, thickened, hardened, and less elastic, making it more difficult for your heart to pump blood through your body.
Your blood pressure is considered high when you consistently have a systolic pressure of 130mmHg or higher, and/or a diastolic pressure of 80mmHg or higher.
Why is hypertension dangerous?
Hypertension is often referred to as “the silent killer”, since you may have no significant symptoms indicating its presence. If left untreated, hypertension increases the likelihood of developing atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries with fatty buildups). Atherosclerosis, in turn, increases risks of heart attack, stroke, and decreased kidney function.
5 Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure
Changes in your lifestyle are necessary to manage hypertension. By changing your daily habits and activities, it is possible to reduce, or even eliminate, the need for medication:
1. Eat healthily
A low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables can significantly lower your blood pressure. Moreover, watching your intake of salt and caffeine can help to lower your blood pressure as well. A healthy daily sodium intake is between 1500 to 2300mg; one slice of pizza can already contain 640mg of sodium!
It may also be helpful to use an app or diary to keep track of your eating habits so that you know what, when, and how much you’re eating each day.
2. Limit your alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol can potentially raise your blood pressure to unhealthy levels. If you have hypertension, avoid drinking alcohol, or drink in moderation.
Moderate drinking is considered to be:
• Two drinks* a day for men younger than age 65
• One drink a day for men age 65 and older
• One drink a day for women of any age.
* A drink is 355ml of beer, 148ml of wine or 44ml of 80-proof distilled spirits.
3. Exercise regularly
If you have hypertension, regular physical activity (150 minutes per week, or 30 minutes a day) can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8mmHg. It is important to be consistent, as stopping your exercise routine may cause your blood pressure to rise again.
Some examples of aerobic exercises include:
• High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
• Strength training/weight lifting
4. Manage your stress
Stress can raise your blood pressure significantly. It is important to find stress-relieving activities or hobbies that you can partake in, such as knitting, cooking, reading, or gardening, in order to improve your overall well-being.
5. Quit smoking
Stop using tobacco! Tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. When you’re smoking a cigarette, your blood pressure can increase significantly. Tobacco may also limit the benefits of antihypertensive therapy. Quitting smoking will allow your blood pressure to return to normal and your cardiovascular health to improve gradually.
Once you have decided which lifestyle changes to make, write down specific ways to accomplish your goals. Log your progress each day, and review your changes every week. You may also consider joining a support group which will connect you to people who can give you emotional support and practical advice.
1. Article adapted from https://askmayoexpert.mayoclinic.org/patient-education/topic/clinical-answers/gnt-20208808.
© 2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved.
2. 10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication. (10 April 2018).
Retrieved September 2018, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20046974.
3.Alcohol: Does it affect blood pressure? (3 October 2015).
Retrieved September 2018, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/blood-pressure/faq-20058254.