Lowering Your Blood Pressure Through Lifestyle Changes
A diagnosis of hypertension can mean a complete overhaul of your lifestyle. Of course, most of the changes required to lower your blood pressure are healthy choices that your doctor has probably been suggesting for years. Here are some of the adjustments you can make to keep high blood pressure in check:
Lose weight: Slimming down lowers blood pressure in most people. In fact, for each pound lost, blood pressure may drop by two points. Losing weight may help you decrease the amount of medication you take or even get you off medication completely. Even a small amount of weight loss is beneficial.
Invest in a home blood pressure monitor: If you have been diagnosed as having high blood pressure, or if your doctor wants more blood pressure readings before making a definitive diagnosis, you may have been advised to buy a home blood pressure monitor.
At-home monitoring has several benefits -- first and foremost, warning you if your pressure becomes dangerously high, so you can get medical attention early. Second, a monitor can save you money, because it can save you trips to the doctor. (Check with your health insurer, because the cost of the monitor may be covered.) And it involves you more intimately in your own care, allowing you to see for yourself the benefits of lifestyle changes and treatments.
You can measure your blood pressure yourself, or you can have someone else do it. Try to check your blood pressure at the same time each day (or as often as your doctor recommends), because blood pressure normally fluctuates throughout the day.
Start an exercise program: Exercise lowers blood pressure and helps you lose weight. Check with your doctor before exercising, however -- if your blood pressure is very high, your doctor might want to get it under control before you begin an exercise regimen. This is especially important if you have been sedentary. The types of exercise that are most likely to benefit your blood pressure are aerobic activities, such as walking, jogging, stair-climbing, aerobic dance, swimming, bicycling, tennis, skating, skiing, or anything else that elevates your pulse and sustains the elevation for at least 20 minutes.
Nonaerobic exercise, such as weight lifting, push-ups, and chin-ups, may actually be dangerous for people with hypertension. These types of exercise should not be done without the explicit consent of your doctor.
Take your medicine: Unlike other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, you'll probably feel fine even if you don't take your medicine. However, inside your body, the disease will continue to progress, damaging the arteries in your eyes, destroying your kidneys, straining your heart, and so on. Another problem that can occur if you stop taking your medicine is a rebound phenomenon, in which your blood pressure rises to a higher level than it was before you started taking the drug.
Learn to relax: Many people misunderstand the term hypertension, believing it to mean a condition where the patient is overly tense. This isn't true. The term is defined solely by blood pressure levels. However, many people with hypertension do have the consummate "Type A" personality -- aggressive, workaholic, hostile, frustrated, or angry. For these people, some form of relaxation, be it meditation, yoga, biofeedback, or massage, or just making time for rest may be an important component of treatment. Chronically stressed individuals release a lot of adrenaline into their systems. That rush of hormone can constrict the arterioles (tiny blood vessels), causing them to go into spasm. It is difficult for the heart to push blood through constricted arterioles. The effect? Higher blood pressure.
Cut down on alcohol: More than one alcoholic drink a day may cause a rise in blood pressure. What constitutes a drink? A 1-ounce shot of hard liquor, a 6-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce beer -- all of which contain 1 ounce of alcohol.
Quit smoking -- now: Cigarette smoking is the number one taboo for people with hypertension. Not only does the nicotine contained in the smoke cause the blood pressure to rise, but it dramatically raises your risk of having a stroke. Cigarette smoking can thicken the blood and increase its propensity to clot. Blood clots in the arteries leading to the heart can cause a heart attack, while blood clots in the artery leading to the brain may cause a stroke. The good news is, you get an immediate benefit by giving up the habit.
Within two years of quitting, your risk of developing coronary artery disease drops as low as that of someone who doesn't smoke. (In contrast, it can take much longer for a person's risk of lung cancer to drop to that level.) Your doctor can recommend local resources to help you quit. You might also want to try the nicotine patch or nicotine gum, both now available over the counter, as an aid to kicking the habit.
Your kitchen holds home remedies that can help you combat hypertension. Go to the next page to learn about fruits, vegetables, and other foods that aid in the cause.
For more information about battling heart problems, visit the following links:
- To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our main Home Remedies page.
- High blood pressure is one aspect of heart disease -- the number one killer of Americans. Learn how to control your blood pressure with hers in Herbal Remedies for High Blood Pressure.
- Learn about cures you can use at home to improve the health of your ticker in Home Remedies for Heart Disease.
- If your cholesterol numbers are higher than you (and your doctor) would like, visit Home Remedies for High Cholesterol.
- To learn more about the science behind heart attacks, read How Heart Disease Works.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.