Even if your blood pressure is just a little on high, it pays to do everything you can to lower it, including these 5 lifestyle tips.
It is estimated that one in five adults have high blood pressure and do not even realize their blood pressure is elevated. Blood pressure levels are affected by the amount of blood flow and resistance. Over time, narrowed arteries can force the blood against a person’s artery walls and, if left unattended, can cause a variety of health problems, including stroke and heart disease.
Almost every adult in the U.S., either knows someone who has blood pressure or has blood pressure themselves. While many people take blood pressure lowering medications, there are natural ways to help lower their blood pressure.
Exercise helps us maintain a healthy weight, keep our bodies moving; it is also great at helping make our hearts stronger. When we exercise, our hearts need to be efficient at pumping blood, this helps to lower the pressure in our arteries.
And while we do want to get our heart pumping, it doesn’t have to be strenuous exercises. Just ensure that you are regularly walking, such as 30 minutes every day, and you are sure to help lower your blood pressure.
When we are stressed, we cause our hearts to beat faster and our blood vessels to narrow. This causes an unwanted rise in our blood pressure. We are all stressed on and off throughout the day, whether due to an impending work deadline or rushing kids around after school trying to meet all their activities.
But if you are chronically stressed, your body is in a constant state of fight-or-flight mode. This is a lot of pressure on your heart. When we are stressed, we also may eat foods we shouldn’t or indulge in alcohol or drugs recreationally. While this may reduce stress for a moment, in the long term, it only puts more pressure on the heart.
There are a variety of ways to lower your stress, from exercise to reducing your caffeine intake. Play around with what works for you. While some people might find they love to be surrounded by family and friends, others may prefer to recharge their battery alone. Either way, be mindful of what causes you to feel stressed and work from there.
Watching what you eat means both including good foods and keeping out the bad. While many studies have shown high salt intake may be linked to high blood pressure, new research suggests that increasing potassium levels may be more important than cutting back salt for blood pressure control.
Therefore, if you know you have high blood pressure, aim to cut back on processed foods or, at least, monitor your potassium levels. There is a delicate balance between the two; if one goes up, the other goes down. Focus on fresh, whole foods such as nuts, leafy greens, beans, fruit like bananas and oranges to help ensure you get enough potassium.
Sugar, another sneaky crystallized substance, has also shown a link to rising blood pressure. But unlike salt, sugar has a nasty way of presenting itself in disguised forms. The same can be said of all refined carbs. But there are ways to eliminate sugar while still keeping some of the sweet, read our post on 7 sugar alternatives to learn more.
You will find these hiding in white flour or white rice which can be converted into sugar in your bloodstream. Want to know the good and bad of how carbs affect your heart? Heartandstroke.ca suggests a sensible approach, that is keep the fruit and vegetables but reduce the bread and sugar.
Eliminating sugar can be challenging, particularly if you have a sweet tooth. But if you like fruit, which is a great sugar alternative, then you are in luck, because fruit is full of polyphenols. Polyphenols are compounds found in plants, tea, dark chocolate, and wine and can act as antioxidants which have shown a link to lowering blood pressure. Read up on our health benefits of green tea post to learn more about polyphenols and other health properties found in tea.
Lastly, try including magnesium-rich foods in your diet as it is a mineral that helps your blood vessels to relax. Much like potassium and the polyphenols previously mentioned, you can find magnesium in vegetables, legumes, and other whole foods. Simply put, ditch the processed foods and replace them with a whole-food diet, and your blood pressure is sure to naturally lower itself.
Smoking calms smokers by the nicotine binds to a gene receptor in the body, acetylcholine. And because of this sensation, smoking can be a hard habit to give up. That said, every puff you take raises your blood pressure, narrows your arteries, and hardens artery walls, making it more likely that your blood will clot.
If you aren’t a smoker, keep in mind that secondhand smoke is still just as dangerous to your body. Unsure how to quit smoking? Begin with a support group. That includes your family and your doctor. Pick a date and stick to it. Have activities ready to occupy your hands instead of smoking.
Know your triggers. If drinking triggers your desire to smoke, then cut back on drinks too. Focus on your health instead of what you will be losing. And lastly, work on your breathing. Practicing deep inhales and slow exhales can help calm you naturally and keep your mind off cigarettes or vaping.
Possibly the hardest one on the list to do, but one of the biggest positive changes for your blood pressure. This is because when your bodyweight rises, so too does your blood pressure. Webmd.com states that for every 20 pounds a person loses, they can drop their systolic pressure 5-20 points.
Systolic pressure is the maximum arterial pressure during the contraction of the left ventricle of the heart. Once again, focusing on whole foods versus processed foods and foods high in fat can drastically help you achieve your weight-loss goals. Add in the exercise mentioned above, and some determination and the weight will come off.
As we age, our blood pressure naturally rises. So, it’s important to focus on these small changes before they get out of hand. Developing healthy habits that include eating right, getting regular exercise, and managing your stress levels will help keep your blood pressure naturally in check. Focus on the day-to-day, and build up your healthy habits over time for long-term success.
My Toolbox Genomics empowers individuals in their healthcare journey by creating reports focused on genetic predispositions derived from published research. Test results and suggestions are intended to lead to consultation with one’s healthcare practitioner. MyTBG reports do not diagnose disease or medical conditions. Any lifestyle changes should result from consultation with qualified healthcare practitioners.