High blood pressure is a widespread medical condition in the United States. Known as hypertension, it is defined as a blood pressure of 140/90 or higher for most people, and is linked with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke as well as heart and kidney failure, among other life-threatening conditions. While many people will need to take blood pressure medication to decrease their chance of serious illness, there are others who can control their blood pressure by following one or more of the following lifestyle strategies:
- Lose weight – Obesity is the most common cause of hypertension, and even a 5-10 pound weight loss can lower blood pressure dramatically. People that have abdominal obesity and lose belly fat can get the most benefit.
- Stop using tobacco products – Nicotine constricts the blood vessels, raising blood pressure. Risk of heart attack and stroke risk is highest within 30 minutes of a smoke or chew.
- Exercise – Regular cardiovascular exercise, shooting for a total of 150 minutes or more per week, reduces blood pressure, both directly through beneficial effects on the heart and blood vessels, and indirectly through such mechanisms as weight loss and stress reduction.
- Go light on alcohol, caffeine and salt – All three are known to raise blood pressure. A good rule of thumb is drink no more than one to two caffeinated or alcoholic beverage per day and ingest no more than 2400 milligrams of sodium per day. Read food labels carefully, as there is quite a bit of added salt to packaged foods.
- Pray or meditate – Try to take time out of a busy day to relax and reflect, being thankful and focusing on the positive. Aside from other benefits, this practice increases the level of “stress fighting” hormones, lowering blood pressure.
- Get adequate sleep – The majority of adults are sleep deprived, getting less than 7-8 hours per night. Many have a treatable nighttime disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea. Quality rest has a stress reducing effect, both directly and indirectly improving blood pressure.
Following the above strategies to help reduce hypertension and its associated medical risks are well worth the time and effort. Read Five Common Characteristics of Healthy People to discover other proactive ways to stay healthy and get the most out of life. Our medical practice follows the old rule that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If you would like to find out more about our Direct Primary Care practice model, click here to read or download our free ebook.
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