High blood pressure, or hypertension, is when the pressure in your blood vessels is higher than normal. Over time, high blood pressure begins to damage blood vessels and cause other health conditions.
Typically, there are no symptoms of high blood pressure until serious complications occur. For this reason, it’s often referred to as “the silent killer.” According to the CDC, around one third of U.S. adults have high blood pressure. However, only half of them actively take steps to manage it. If left unmanaged, hypertension can lead to heart disease, stroke, and even kidney disease.
Fortunately, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to help improve your blood pressure. In some cases, your doctor might recommend medication in addition to lifestyle changes. Below are six ways you can safely lower your blood pressure.
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1. Get Regular Physical Activity
Regular aerobic exercise, like walking, hiking, or cycling helps strengthen your heart. As your heart gets stronger, it pumps with less effort. This helps reduce the amount of pressure in your blood vessels, lowering your blood pressure.
Generally, you should aim for around 30 minutes of physical activity a day, or at least 150 minutes per week. Even if you’re unable to set aside 30 minutes, you can still benefit by breaking activity into 10 or 15 minute chunks throughout the day.
There also are many small ways you can increase your activity throughout the day:
- Walking instead of driving.
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
- Spending time outdoors, gardening, or doing yard work.
- If you work in an office, taking time to get up, stretch, and move around.
Regardless of how you decide to do it, physical activity and exercise are among the best ways to improve your overall health.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet that’s Low in Sodium
Eating a heart-healthy diet can have a large impact on your blood pressure. For starters, cut processed foods from your diet. These foods are typically high in sodium, which raises your blood pressure.
Furthermore, cutting back on carbs and refined sugar can also help lower blood pressure. One study found that a low-carb diet was highly effective in lowering blood pressure, even when compared to low-fat diets.
Overall, high levels of sodium, or salt, in your diet can be one factor in elevated blood pressure. Lowering your salt intake can have benefits both for hypertension and your overall health. If you’re taking medication to treat your high blood pressure, your doctor may have additional dietary restrictions.
3. Manage Your Stress
When we’re stressed, our bodies react in a number of ways. One reaction is to release adrenaline and cortisol. Both are stress hormones that trigger the body’s fight or flight response, in turn increasing heart rate and constricting blood vessels.
Occasional stress is a normal response to everyday life. But when we experience stress on a regular basis, it begins to take its toll on our health. There are a number of ways to decrease stress, including yoga, mindfulness meditation, and improving your time management.
4. Cut Back on Caffeine
There is still debate around the long-term effects of caffeine. However, caffeine does briefly increase blood pressure. For people who are sensitive to caffeine, this effect is even greater.
In general, if you’re suffering from high blood pressure or are sensitive to caffeine, try to limit the amount of caffeine you consume. Instead, try decaf coffee or tea.
5. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Losing weight can help significantly lower high blood pressure. A higher body weight places additional stress on blood vessels and increases the workload placed on the heart. Even losing as little as 5 or 10 pounds can begin improving blood pressure.
More importantly, the benefits of maintaining a healthy weight are even larger when coupled with regular exercise and a healthy diet. Most lifestyle changes work to reinforce each other. For this reason, your doctor will likely discuss making gradual changes that work together to improve not only your blood pressure, but also your overall health.
6. Take Your Blood Pressure Medication
Your doctor may prescribe one or more medications to help treat your hypertension. If you are prescribed medications, be sure to take them as directed by your doctor.
You may experience side effects and should report these or any changes in your condition to your doctor. They may want to change your dosage or try a different medication. Regardless, do not stop taking your medication without first talking with your doctor.
If you’re having difficulty affording your medications, there are a number of ways you can lower costs. If you’re prescribed a brand name drug, talk with your doctor to see if there is a generic alternative. In addition, the ScriptSave WellRx discount card can help you find savings on your blood pressure medication at thousands of pharmacies across the U.S.