Did you know that high blood pressure (hypertension) causes clogged, hardened arteries (atherosclerosis), coronary artery disease, heart attacks, kidney disease, and strokes? And that’s not a comprehensive list of the serious health problems related to high blood pressure.
Lowering your blood pressure is one of the most crucial steps you can take to prevent life-threatening conditions. Laura Fernandes, MD, FACC, at Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute, gets you off to a good start with these five practical tips for getting your blood pressure into the healthy range.
1. Eat less salt
The more salt (sodium chloride) you eat, the more water your body retains. The excess water increases blood volume, putting extra pressure on your heart and blood vessels and raising your blood pressure.
Most dietary salt comes from processed and commercially prepared foods, not from the salt you add at the table (unless you sprinkle a tremendous amount).
Try to limit foods high in salt, including bread, pizza, cold cuts, restaurant foods (including fast food), salty snacks, and canned goods (that aren’t low in salt).
2. Eat more potassium
You need potassium to support the nerves and muscles in your heart and blood vessels. This essential mineral also lowers blood pressure by helping your body eliminate salt and relaxing blood vessel walls. Blood can flow more easily through relaxed blood vessels.
Unfortunately, most people don’t get enough potassium in their daily diet. You can solve that problem by eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Beans and dairy products are also good choices for boosting potassium. A few of the top sources include dried apricots, raisins, baked potatoes, kidney beans, spinach, and yogurt.
3. Get more active
Getting regular exercise is important if you want to reduce and control your blood pressure. Exercise also delivers health benefits like:
- Better brain function
- Less anxiety
- Improved mood
- Weight loss
- Stronger bones and muscles
- Lower risk of chronic health conditions (heart disease, diabetes, and others)
Exercise lowers your blood pressure by helping you lose weight and strengthening your heart.
If you don’t currently exercise much, begin slowly and gradually increase the time and intensity of your activities. Ultimately, you should aim for 150 minutes of exercise weekly (30 minutes five days a week).
Choosing an activity you enjoy is the secret to sticking with an exercise regimen. You don’t need to work out at the gym (unless that’s your favorite activity). Instead, you can take a walk, go swimming or cycling, or turn up the music and dance.
4. Lose weight and maintain your healthy weight
Extra weight forces your heart to pump harder, and that causes higher blood pressure. Being overweight is a significant risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes and kidney disease, two conditions that also contribute to high blood pressure.
If you want to lose weight and have the best chance of maintaining your healthy weight, setting sustainable goals, such as losing two pounds a week, is important. The basics of losing weight are what you would expect: limiting your calories; following a healthy, whole-food diet; and getting regular exercise.
However, an imbalance of hunger, satiety, and stress hormones can sabotage your weight-loss efforts. If you struggle to lose weight or need help setting calorie goals, we can recommend a physician-supervised program that supports your hard work.
5. Manage your stress
Cortisol is a crucial hormone that helps your body manage stress. The hormone also reduces inflammation and regulates blood pressure and blood sugar.
Your cortisol levels stay too high when you’re frequently or constantly stressed. High cortisol leads to serious problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, weight gain, and memory loss.
Stress-reduction techniques include:
- Engaging in regular exercise
- Listening to relaxing music
- Practicing mindfulness meditation
- Breathing slowly and deeply
- Improving your time management
- Communicating your feelings
- Practicing yoga, tai chi, or other mind-body activities
In today’s hectic world, many people are also learning that they can reduce stress by turning off the TV and unplugging from electronics for a specified amount of time every day. Shutting off electronics a few hours before bedtime is especially helpful for improving sleep.
Call Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute today or use online booking to schedule a blood pressure screening and get help managing your heart health.