High blood pressure is a silent killer that can cause damage throughout the body while going completely undetected. According to the CDC, 75 million, or 1 in 3, American adults have high blood pressure. Yet, only about half of those have their condition well-managed. Unfortunately, when not kept under control, high blood pressure can contribute to some very serious health concerns including heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
There are a large number of prescription medications that are commonly used to help lower and maintain blood pressure within a healthy range. These include diuretics, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and many more. And, while the right medication can be a great tool in fighting high blood pressure, there are many other ways in which some patients may be able to control their condition naturally.
Diet and Blood Pressure
A healthy diet is the first step in regaining control of high blood pressure, but don’t let the term “diet” fool you. This is a lifelong commitment to healthy eating. Based on the approach known as the DASH diet (dietary approaches to stop hypertension), patients should focus on consuming lean protein, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and low-fat dairy. By doing so, systolic blood pressure (the top number) could be reduced by as much as 14 points. Of course, what isn’t included is nearly as important as what is when it comes to a healthy diet. Those with high blood pressure should also focus on keeping salt and sugar intake to a minimum.
Exercise and Blood Pressure
The stronger the heart, the more efficiently it can perform. Those who are physically active and exercise regularly are far more likely to maintain healthy blood pressure than those who do not. According to the American Heart Association, 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity three to four times per week is all it takes on average to help reduce high blood pressure.
Weight and Blood Pressure
Going hand-in-hand with the first two methods, body weight is a major factor associated with blood pressure. In general, weight loss in those who are considered overweight or obese makes a significant, positive impact, and even a few pounds lost can help. Likewise, waist size has also been linked with blood pressure. Ideally, a man’s waist circumference should be less than 40 inches, and a woman’s should be less than 35 in order to minimize risk.
Smoking and Blood Pressure
Smoking is a habit that can worsen nearly any health condition. With each cigarette smoked, blood pressure increases temporarily. Over the long-term, smoking can compound the health problems associated with high blood pressure by damaging blood vessels and arteries and causing inflammation throughout the body. While quitting may not be easy, programs such as Commit to Quit can help with resources such as assistance from medical professionals, prescription medications, and group support.
Stress and Blood Pressure
Stress, along with the methods some use to compensate for it, such as overeating, smoking, or drinking, can exacerbate problems with blood pressure. To help reduce stress, identify the contributing factors. Where possible, minimize these stressors, or when that cannot be done, determine the most effective methods to cope with them such as meditation or dedicating more time to hobbies.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your long-term health depends on keeping the condition under control. The changes above can all help reduce blood pressure levels to a healthy range and potentially allow you to avoid the need for medication. Still, this is a determination that can only be made by your physician. Speak with your doctor about your potential treatment options and which may be best for your particular situation.