Sourced from an article written by the MayoClinic Staff
Medicine isn't always the one and only answer.
Lifestyle plays an important role in treating high blood pressure. With controlling blood pressure by developing a healthy lifestyle, you can work towards delaying or even reducing the need for medication.
Here are six lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure and keep it down.
1. Lose weight and watch your waist line
Blood pressure goes hand in hand with weight increases. Being overweight also can cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea), which continues to increase your blood pressure.
Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure. In general, you may reduce your blood pressure by about 1 millimeter of mercury (mm Hg) with each kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of weight you lose.
Beyond losing weight, you should also pay attention to your waistline. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high blood pressure.
Men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (102 centimeters).
Women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (89 centimeters).
These numbers vary among ethnic groups. Ask your doctor about a healthy waist measurement for you.
2. Exercise regularly
Getting in physical activity, such as 150-minutes a week, or about 30-minutes most days of the week can lower your blood pressure by about five to eight mm Hg. Note: Be consistent, if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again.
With high blood pressure, you are at risk of developing hypertension. Regular exercise can help you avoid this, or help decrease current hypertension.
Here are some simple ways to start moving and lower blood pressure:
High Intensity Interval Training
Talk to your doctor and a fitness coach about developing an exercise program.
3. Eat a healthy diet
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 11 mm Hg.
Changing eating habits can be difficult, these are some simple tips:
Keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat, even for just a week, can shed surprising light on your true eating habits. Monitor what you eat, how much, when and why.
Consider boosting potassium. Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is food, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. Talk to your doctor about the potassium level that's best for you.
Be a smart shopper. Read food labels when you shop and stick to your healthy-eating plan when you're dining out, too.
Working with a Registered Dietitian can be the easiest way to change habits and develop a healthy eating lifestyle.
4. Reduce sodium in your diet
A small reduction in the sodium in your diet can improve your heart health and reduce blood pressure by about five to six mm Hg.
In general, limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less. However, a lower sodium intake — 1,500 mg a day or less — is ideal for most adults.
To decrease sodium in your diet, consider these tips:
Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy.
Eat fewer processed foods. Only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in foods. Most sodium is added during processing.
Don't add salt. Just 1 level teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Use herbs or spices to add flavor to your food.
Ease into it. If you don't feel you can drastically reduce the sodium in your diet suddenly, cut back gradually. Your palate will adjust over time.
5. Cut back on caffeine
Caffeine's effects on blood pressure is still debated. It has been determined that caffeine can raise blood pressure up to ten mm Hg in people who rarely consume it. Those who drink coffee regularly may experience little or no effect on their blood pressure.
To see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check your pressure within 30-minutes after drinking a caffeinated beverage. If your blood pressure increases by five to ten mm Hg, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine.
Talk to your doctor about the effects of caffeine on your blood pressure.
6. Reduce your stress
Long term stress may contribute to high blood pressure.
Self evaluate to figure out what in life is causing you stress. Once you determine you sources of stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress.
If you can't eliminate all of your stressors, you can at least learn to deal with them in a healthier way. Try to:
Change your expectations. For example, plan your day and focus on your priorities. Avoid trying to do too much and learn to say no. Understand there are some things you can't change or control, but you can focus on how you react to them.
Focus on issues you can control and make plans to solve them. If you are having an issue at work, try talking to your manager. If you are having a conflict with your kids or spouse, take steps to resolve it.
Avoid stress triggers. Try to avoid triggers when you can. For example, if rush-hour traffic on the way to work causes stress, try leaving earlier in the morning, or take public transportation. Avoid people who cause you stress if possible.
Make time to relax and to do activities you enjoy. Take time each day to sit quietly and breathe deeply. Make time for enjoyable activities or hobbies in your schedule, such as taking a walk, cooking or volunteering.
Practice gratitude. Expressing gratitude to others can help reduce your stress.