According to the CDC, 45% of Americans have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. That’s over 108 million people! Hypertension simply means that your blood is pushing too hard against your artery walls which can cause damage after some time. Blood pressure is measured in two figures: Systolic (the top number) and Diastolic (the bottom number). A systolic reading over 130 mm Hg or a diastolic reading over 80 mm Hg indicates hypertension.
Genetics plays a part in hypertension, but luckily there is still a lot you can do to reduce your risk and possibly save your life. Here are our top seven tips to prevent high blood pressure and be the healthiest you possible:
Eat a Healthy Diet
You should be eating a healthy diet anyway, but proper nutrition is even more important for those with high blood pressure. Decreasing your sodium (salt) and saturated fat intake while upping your protein, fiber, and potassium intake is a good rule of thumb. Also, be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables! If you’re having a hard time knowing what to eat with high blood pressure, try the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan for some guidance.
Stay Physically Active
Physical activity is important for everyone to enjoy a healthy and happy life. In addition to reducing your risk of hypertension, exercise has also been shown to improve cognitive abilities and elevate mood. Adults should get at least 2.5 hours of moderate activity each week (think brisk walking). That’s just 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week.
Stay at a Healthy Weight
As long as you’re eating a healthy diet and staying physically active, you shouldn’t have to worry much about your weight. If you’re unsure, calculate your Body Mass Index or BMI. There are several easy-to-use BMI calculators, just a quick Google search away. Your BMI will tell you if you are considering overweight or obese and what your ideal weight is for your height. If you need to lose weight, be sure you’re using healthy methods and not binge dieting, which can be hard on your cardiovascular system and affect your blood pressure.
Smoking raises your blood pressure and increases your risk of a heart attack. If you smoke already, now is a great time to stop. There are lots of smoking cessation programs out there to help – check out www.cdc.gov/quit for tips and resources.
Limit Alcohol Intake
While it’s true that a glass of red wine at night is good for your heart, that’s really about all you should have. Men shouldn’t have more than two drinks per day, and women should only have one. Binge drinking is a big no for those with hypertension, having more than three drinks in one sitting will temporarily raise your blood pressure, and long-term binge drinking will raise it for longer.
Manage Your Stress
According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death, including heart disease. Even more shocking, 75% of all doctor visits are stress-related in some way. In addition to a healthy diet, regular exercise, refraining from smoking, and limiting alcohol, all of which reduce stress themselves, you can also try:
- Meditation and relaxation techniques
- Starting a hobby
- Enjoying religious activities
- Learning to say “No”
- Discussing severe stress with your doctor
- Catch Some Zzz’s
Finally, getting enough rest is a cornerstone to any healthy living plan. Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis has been linked to increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. People who sleep less than six hours per night will see the most drastic rises in blood pressure. Seven to eight hours is what’s recommended for adults. Too much sleep can also negatively affect your blood pressure due to weight gain, so don’t forget to set the alarm!
High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects millions of people each year in the US. Do what you can to keep your blood pressure in check by practicing healthy lifestyle habits and seeing your doctor regularly. If you are diagnosed with hypertension, be sure to take all your medications as prescribed and follow all monitoring instructions. You can still have a healthy, active life with vigilant care and determination.