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Managing Hypertension With Healthy Habits

Diana Rodriguez
Doctor measuring blood pressure - studio shot on white background

Medication can lower high blood pressure, but lifestyle changes are also proven to help.Studies have found that lifestyle changes, including altering your diet and physical activity regimen, can be useful tools in successfully controlling high blood pressure. An unhealthy lifestyle is known to be linked to high blood pressure, so it only makes sense that reversing those old habits can help with hypertension management.

In fact, making small lifestyle changes can have a big impact. Losing just 10 pounds can make a difference, and lowering your blood pressure by 5 points reduces mortality from stroke by as much as 14 percent, heart disease by 9 percent, and overall mortality by 7 percent.

Making Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Here are some changes that can offer huge improvements in your high blood pressure levels:

  • Change your diet. Studies have found that a low-salt (low-sodium) diet has a big benefit when it comes to lowering hypertension. Cutting back on high-sodium foods and salt at mealtimes is recommended for people with high blood pressure — keep your daily salt consumption to less than 2,300 milligrams of salt, about equal to one teaspoon. You can add to your diet for better hypertension management, too: Fill up on whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables to help lower high blood pressure.
  • Get active. Exercise is another key to management of hypertension — 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week can really boost heart health.
  • Lower stress. Keeping stress under control with regular relaxation has been found to help lower high blood pressure. Allow yourself some time each day to unwind and enjoy life.
  • Cut out tobacco and reduce alcohol consumption. Tobacco use and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can contribute to high blood pressure, studies have found. If you enjoy an occasional drink, stick to a maximum of one (for women) or two (for men) drinks per day, and no tobacco.
  • Get to a healthy body weight. Obesity — even being overweight — is a major contributor to high blood pressure. So for better management of hypertension, lose weight. The goal is a body mass index, or BMI, of between 18 and 24.9. And all of those other lifestyle changes, like a healthy diet and regular exercise, will help you achieve it.
  • Monitor medication usage. If you take many medications, it’s a good idea to review them with your doctor to see if any of them could be contributing to your high blood pressure or interacting with your blood pressure medications. Decongestants and other cold medications, some antidepressants, steroids, and pain relievers like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can raise blood pressure, so ask your doctor about over-the-counter drugs and any other prescriptions if you’re struggling to manage hypertension.
  • Be vigilant about watching your blood pressure levels. You know you have high blood pressure, so stay on top of it. Always take your medications the way that your doctor recommends, and make sure that your blood pressure is monitored frequently.

The keys to getting healthy and lowering blood pressure are in your hands. You can reduce your risk for serious health problems by making these lifestyle changes. So what are you waiting for?

Published By Diana Rodriguez | Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
Copyright © 2015 Everyday Health Media, LLC

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