Lifestyle Adjustments for Living With Hypertension

Making a lifestyle change is never easy, but it’s worth the effort. For most people with hypertension, diet and exercise have the power to tame their high blood pressure without medication. And even if you need medication, your lifestyle choices are a key part of maintaining normal blood pressure for the long run.

Patients at Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute have the ongoing support of our team of cardiology professionals, led by Dr. Laura Fernandes. We work closely with each person, helping them create a lifestyle plan that restores optimal wellness and prevents the serious complications of high blood pressure.

Here, we share four important lifestyle changes that help you manage high blood pressure.

Lifestyle tip 1: Change your diet

The foods you eat have a tremendous impact on your blood pressure. Generally speaking, the best way to lower your blood pressure is with a diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy products, beans, and nuts.

But two of the most important dietary changes involve salt and potassium:

Eat less salt

The sodium in salt directly affects your blood pressure. When you eat salt, your body holds on to more water. Extra water increases your blood volume, which in turn raises your blood pressure.

Cutting back on salt means more than watching how much you add at the dinner table. It turns out that 70% of your salt intake comes from packaged, prepared, and restaurant foods.

A few of the highest sources include cured meats, cold cuts, pizza, tacos, canned soup (and other canned products), salty snacks, bread, and breaded meats such as chicken nuggets.

Eat more potassium

Most people don’t get enough potassium, which magnifies the impact of a high salt diet. Why? Because potassium counteracts the effect of salt. Simply boosting your dietary potassium can help lower your blood pressure and prevent heart disease.

Potassium is naturally found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. A few of the best sources include bananas, raisins, tomato juice, orange juice, spinach, and lima beans. Yogurt and milk are also high in potassium.

Lifestyle tip 2: Get regular exercise

You already know that getting regular exercise is just downright good for your health. Exercise strengthens your bones and muscles. It also improves the health of your heart and brain, boosts your mood, and lowers your risk of developing chronic diseases.

Exercise also has an immediate impact on your blood pressure. After one exercise session, your blood pressure drops. You can sustain that effect with regular exercise.

Walking is one of the best exercises because it’s free and safe for most people. But it’s always important to talk with us before you increase your activity. We want to make sure that the activity you choose and the intensity of your exercise is safe for your hypertension or other health conditions.

Lifestyle tip 3: Maintain a healthy weight

As your body weight increases, your blood pressure also rises. The good news is that it doesn’t take a significant amount of weight loss to lower your blood pressure. 

Losing as few as 10 pounds will improve your blood pressure. You can make an ever bigger impact with a long-term goal of reaching and maintaining your healthy weight.

We can help you set goals, give you a lot of health tips, and recommend places in the community where you can find support for losing weight.

Lifestyle tip 4: Stop smoking

Smoking is one of the top contributors to heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Why? Because the chemicals in cigarette smoke damage your blood vessels and heart.

Smoking is a major risk factor for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and peripheral artery disease. In other words, we can’t overemphasize the importance of stopping smoking. We know it’s not easy, so talk to us — we’re here to help.

If you have any questions about your blood pressure and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, call our Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute office in The Woodlands, Texas, or schedule an appointment online.

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