It is possible to control high blood pressure without medication. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, affects 1 in 3 adults in the United States. The condition increases the risk of heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the US.
Blood pressure is the measure of the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. The heart pumps blood into the arteries (blood vessels), which carry the blood throughout the body. High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood to the body and contributes to hardening of the arteries and/or to the development of heart failure.
April 7, 2013 is World Health Day, and this year’s theme is high blood pressure. It is possible to lower high blood pressure and prevent heart disease without taking prescription medications.
By making the following 10 simple lifestyle changes, anyone can lower their blood pressure and reduce their risk of heart disease.
- Managing weight. Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. In general, the more weight you lose, the lower your blood pressure. A doctor can help determine target weight and the best way to achieve it.
- Exercise regularly. Regular physical activity — at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week — can help lower blood pressure. Iit doesn’t take long to see a difference either, usually increasing exercise level can lower blood pressure within just a few weeks.
- Eat healthy. Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and low on saturated fat and cholesterol can drastically lower blood pressure.. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
- Limit sodium intake. Even a small reduction in the sodium in a diet can reduce high blood pressure. The recommendations for reducing sodium are to limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less, or 1 tablespoon of salt.
- Do not smoke. The nicotine in tobacco products can raise blood pressure for up to an hour after smoking. Smoking throughout the day means that blood pressure may remain constantly high. It is also best to avoid secondhand smoke.
- Drink less alcohol. When consumed in small amounts, alcohol can potentially lower blood pressure. But that protective effect is lost if a person drinks too much alcohol. In general, one drink a day for women and men older than age 65, or two a day for men age 65 and younger is advised as being acceptable. However, if a person doesn’t normally drink alcohol, they shouldn’t start drinking as a way to lower blood pressure.
- Limit caffeine. Although scientists have long debated the effects of caffeine on blood pressure, a recent Duke University Medical Center study found that caffeine consumption of 500 mg (roughly three 8-ounce cups of coffee) increased blood pressure throughout the day until bedtime.
- Relax. Stress or anxiety can temporarily increase blood pressure, so managing stress is an excellent way to prevent high blood pressure. Stress management practices such as take breaks for deep-breathing exercises, massages, or yoga may be able to help reduce stress.
- Eat dark chocolate. Dark chocolate varieties contain flavanols that make blood vessels more elastic. In one study, 18 percent of patients who ate it 0.5 ounces of it every day saw blood pressure decrease.
- Consume potassium. Although many people are aware that eating too much salt can raise blood pressure, most aren’t aware of the benefits of potassium, which counters sodium’s ill effects. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should get at least 4,700 milligrams a day. A few good sources include bananas, a baked potato with skin, orange juice, and nonfat or low-fat yogurt.