Drug therapy is a proven way to manage high blood pressure and lower your risk for heart disease. But lifestyle modifications can also help maintain your blood pressure within a healthy range and possibly even avoid medication. Most doctors do not advise taking medicines immediately unless a person’s blood pressure is very high.
For people with not-so-very-high blood pressure or stage 1 hypertension, the first line of treatment is to stridulously think about changing their lifestyle. Lifestyle modifications can be as effective as medication.
First Thing First – Blood Pressure Numbers
Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury mm Hg. Elevated pressure is defined as systolic blood pressure (the first number in a reading) of 120 to 129 mm Hg, with diastolic pressure (the second number) of less than 80 mm Hg. People with consistent readings of 130 to 139 for systolic pressure or 80 to 89 for diastolic pressure are considered to have high blood pressure (stage 1 hypertension).
However, your doctor may advise different target numbers based on your age and health conditions.
Science has proven that a chronic state of inflammation can lead to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and other health problems, including arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. v
To fight harmful chronic inflammation, eat the right foods, staying away from those that can trigger chronic inflammation, including refined carbohydrates (like white bread and muffins), red meat, fried foods, added sugar, and sugary beverages. Instead, choose green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil, and fatty fish. Also, exercise enough, control stress, and get the right amount of sleep.
Healthy lifestyle habits are the foundation for controlling blood pressure. They even help reduce or even avoid medication. Following a healthy lifestyle approach also lets you feel more in control of your health.
Many people are reluctant to start taking medicine as they don’t like to be dependent on them. In a way, it’s good because this resistance can offer extra motivation for making the necessary lifestyle modifications. Still, don’t be disheartened if your doctor suggests you start taking a low dose of medicine. Once you achieve your blood pressure goals, following a healthy lifestyle may allow you to take a drug holiday (of course, after consulting your doctor). And even if you still need medicine, your healthy lifestyle modifications can help avoid dose increases or additional blood pressure medication.
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The following lifestyle modifications have the most significant impact on blood pressure. In fact, they are the cornerstones of healthy living — diet, exercise, weight control, limiting sodium and alcohol intake, and managing stress.
A word of caution – though these all are important, don’t attempt to change them all in one go. Consult your doctor to first focus on the one or two most important changes based on what’s likely to have a significant impact.
Adopt a diet based on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Limit consumption of sodium, red meat, and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. Also, focusing on a plant-based diet helps reduce blood pressure numbers.
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The guidelines recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly, but it all depends on your fitness level and medical conditions. Some people may be physically very fit and can do more than that. For others who are not so fit, a reasonable starting goal is 20 to 30 minutes every alternate day.
Those needing motivation can join a walking group, sports club, or community center. You can increase your daily physical movements, such as walking for five minutes every hour, doing two sets of five to ten push-ups on the floor or against the wall or kitchen counter, or 20 minutes of stretching or yoga. Remember, any kind of exercise is better than doing nothing.
If you can afford it, join a fitness class at a gym or hire a personal trainer.
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Whereas a person’s weight tends to increase somewhat with age, even five to ten pounds over your ideal weight can increase blood pressure. In fact, for overweight people, every pound lost can reduce systolic blood pressure by up to 1 mm Hg. Check with your doctor about your ideal weight for your body type and age. Adopting a healthy diet, increasing your physical activities, and exercising can help you control weight.
People suffering from high blood pressure can significantly improve by limiting sodium intake. Processed foods are one major factor contributing to most of the sodium people consume. These foods include canned soups and vegetables, instant and ready-to-eat cereals, lunch meats, frozen dinners, salty chips, and packaged snacks. Cut back on such foods, or select low-sodium options.
Guidelines say men should not consume more than two standard drinks a day and women one. A single drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.
Alcohol is not good for overall health, and drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can increase blood pressure. However, the best is to avoid them or cut back on alcohol as much as possible, but not more than the above guidelines.
Stress also contributes to chronic inflammation and can damage artery walls, making them lose elasticity. So reducing stress can also help reduce your blood pressure significantly. In addition to chronic inflammation, ongoing stress can activate your adrenal glands to produce hormones that increase blood pressure. If stress is not managed, it can induce overeating, poor sleep, and physical inactivity. To control stress, try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation, or perhaps allocate some time to do every day whatever you enjoy doing.
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About Author: Renu Bakshi, AKA Fitness Buffhq, is ISSA Certified Elite Trainer. He passed Personal Fitness Trainer Course, Nutrition Health Coach course & Specialist Exercise Therapy course from ISSA, USA obtaining + 97% marks. He shares his experience and knowledge about nutrition and effective workouts to get you in the best shape of your life, no matter how old you may be. The author says: “For me, age is just a number!”
Useful Resource: Forbes