High blood pressure is commonly called the “silent killer” and if that’s not enough to scare you into action, I don’t know what is. It’s a dangerous condition that typically has no symptoms until after the damage has been done to the heart and arteries. It’s important to routinely get your blood pressure checked by your doctor, so that if there is a concern, you can act as quickly as possible. Fortunately, there are lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure so you can live a longer and healthier life.
What is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a common condition and occurs when the blood pressure in your arteries increases and your heart has to work harder than normal to pump blood through your blood vessels. The more blood your heart pumps, and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure will be. High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart disease.
High blood pressure typically develops over many years, and fortunately, it’s easy to detect – you can even check it at home with a personal blood pressure monitor. Once you know you have high blood pressure, there are numerous things you can do to control it. Most of these lifestyle changes can be made by altering things in your day to day life, such as eating better, exercising more, and cutting out unhealthy habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
These are the common things that can lead to high blood pressure:
- Kidney problems
- Thyroid problems
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Certain medications such as birth control, cold remedies and prescription drugs
- Too much alcohol consumption
- Too much salt in your diet
Who is at Risk for High Blood Pressure?
There are numerous factors that put certain people at higher risk for high blood pressure. Check them out below.
1. Age and Gender
As you get older, your risk for high blood pressure increases. Until around the age of 64, high blood pressure is more common in men, and after that, it tends to be more common in women.
High blood pressure tends to run in the family, meaning that if your parents or grandparents had it, you are likely to get it too. If you’re born with certain defects in your blood vessels, this also makes you more likely to develop high blood pressure.
If you’re overweight or obese, this increases your likelihood of high blood pressure. The more you weigh, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As more blood is circulated through your blood vessels, more pressure is placed on your artery walls.
4. Tobacco Use
Smoking or chewing tobacco raises your blood pressure temporarily, and also damages the lining of your artery walls. This can cause your arteries to narrow, increasing your risk of heart disease. Note that second hand smoke can cause the same effects, and also lead to heart disease.
7 Lifestyle Changes to Lower Your Blood Pressure
1. Exercise More Often
Participating in aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise is a great way to lower your blood pressure. Increasing your heart and breathing rates over time strengthens your heart and allows it to pump with less effort. You should strive for 40-minute sessions three to four times a week of moderate to vigorous activity.
2. Cut Back on Sugar and Refined Carbs
Sugar and refined carbs are two of the most dangerous parts of the Western diet. They’re the main culprits of obesity, and are linked to diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Restricting sugar and refined carbs can help you lose weight as well as lower your blood pressure, making you healthier all around.
3. Decrease Your Sodium, Increase Your Potassium
Too much sodium can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure. Reduce your intake of high sodium foods and eat a good balance of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry and beans. Increasing potassium can also help with blood sugar levels. It lessens the effects of salt in your system, and eases tension in your blood vessels. Foods high in potassium include low-fat dairy foods, fish, fruits like bananas, oranges and avocados, and vegetables like sweet potatoes, tomatoes and spinach.
4. Stop Smoking
If you’re a smoker, it’s definitely affecting your blood pressure. Smoking causes an immediate spike in your blood pressure, as well as an increase in your heart rate. Although this is temporary, there are long term damaging health effects. The chemicals in tobacco increase your blood pressure by damaging your blood vessel walls, causing inflammation and narrowing your arteries. The hardened arteries can elevate blood pressure.
5. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
When you’re sleeping, your blood pressure typically dips down. Not sleeping well can affect your blood pressure, and those who experience sleep deprivation have an increased risk of high blood pressure (especially if they’re middle-aged). Sleeping less than seven hours per night can increase your risk of hypertension, and sleeping less than five hours per night can significantly increase your risk of high blood pressure over time.
6. Take Supplements Known to Lower High Blood Pressure
There are certain supplements that have been found to lower high blood pressure. If you’re not already, start taking supplements such as coenzyme Q10, magnesium, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, fish oil, and citrulline.
7. Make Weight Loss A Priority
If you’re overweight, losing weight should be at top of your mind to make your body healthier. Losing even five to ten pounds can reduce your blood pressure, on top of any other medical issues you may have. If you’re quite overweight, losing 20 pounds can make a significant difference.
Your heart health is extremely important. Make sure you’re taking the steps to keep your blood pressure where it needs to be with these healthy lifestyle changes.
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