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3 Lifestyle Changes That Can Lower Blood Pressure

Yasmine Ali, MD

Obesity causes high blood pressure (also known by its medical term, “hypertension”). For many cases of diagnosed hypertension, both medication and lifestyle changes are needed—and weight loss is an important part of those lifestyle changes that help manage and lower blood pressure. The three listed below will not only help lower blood pressure in most people who have high blood pressure, but they can also prevent or delay the onset of hypertension in those who currently have normal or “borderline” blood pressure.

1. Exercise.

Most national and international guidelines recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week. This can translate into 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times per week, for instance. And research has borne out the health benefits of a daily 30-minute walk: in the Nurses’ Health Study, for instance, those who walked briskly or otherwise achieved moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes every day had a low risk of sudden cardiac death during 26 years of follow up.

2. Eat Less Sodium and More Fiber.

Diets that are low in sodium, high in fiber, and high in potassium and magnesium have been shown in decades of research to help lower or prevent high blood pressure. This is one of many reasons why the American Heart Association recommends the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet for prevention of stroke (which can be caused by high blood pressure). Both encourage a higher intake of fiber and reduced intake of highly processed foods, and the DASH diet in particular focuses on reducing sodium intake.

3. Lose 5%.

Studies have shown that losing just 5% to 10% of excess weight is all it takes to see significant reductions in your risk for diabetes, cholesterol disorders (also known as dyslipidemia), blood pressure, heart disease, and more.

Researchers have found that even a small gain in weight, of as little as five pounds, can raise blood pressure in otherwise healthy adults. In one study, conducted in healthy individuals aged 18 to 48, those who gained a small amount of weight, from approximately five to 11 pounds, experienced an average rise in systolic blood pressure (the top blood pressure number) from 114 mm Hg to 118 mm Hg. Those who gained more weight around the abdomen had the greatest increase in blood pressure.

Just as small weight gains can raise blood pressure, so can losing even a small amount of weight result in improved blood pressure. One study that looked at patients with obesity who were in the age range of 20 to 55 years found that those who reduced their calorie intake by 800 calories per day (under carefully guided and supervised study parameters) not only lost weight but also lowered their blood pressures. This study also showed that those who lost weight also improved their obstructive sleep apnea, which is interrelated with both obesity and high blood pressure.

Updated March 05, 2015. By Yasmine Ali, MD
COPYRIGHT © 2015 About.com

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