Tips to Lower Your Blood Pressure and Improve Your Health

Doctor taking an older woman's blood pressure

Your blood pressure is the pressure of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Your systolic pressure (top number) is the pressure your blood exerts when your heart beats, whereas your diastolic pressure (bottom number) is the pressure in-between beats when your heart rests. Your blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the day, but if it remains high, it’s classified as hypertension.

The American Heart Association developed guidelines to determine if your blood pressure is within a healthy range. The goal is to have a reading of 120/80 mm Hg or less. Hypertension is classified with a number at or above 130/80 mm Hg. Stage 2 hypertension is blood pressure above 140/90 mm Hg. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only about 25% of Americans with hypertension have that number under control. When uncontrolled, it can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Monitor your blood pressure and seek treatment from a healthcare provider as needed.

Tips for Managing Your Blood Pressure

What can you do to manage your blood pressure? There are several measures you can take to reduce your risk for hypertension and other health conditions.

  • Be Active – Don’t sit still! Movement and aerobic exercise is important. As you exercise, your heart health improves. Less pressure is placed on your arteries and your blood pressure lowers. Aim for 30 minutes/day of cardio activity. Consider walking, swimming or biking. If 30 minutes sounds like too much, don’t stress. Small amounts throughout the day can add up.
  • Lose Weight – Small changes in your weight can have a big effect on your health. If you have excess weight, losing 5-10 lbs. can reduce your blood pressure and help with other health conditions.
  • Watch Your Stress – Stress is everywhere. It can come from work, family and even friends. Stress can also increase your blood pressure, but taking steps to reduce it can make a big difference. Yoga, meditation and deep breathing are effective stress-reducing strategies. Consider doing at least 10-15 minutes of these activities each day.
  • Change Your Diet – Your diet can have a big impact on your blood pressure. Diet changes can make a difference. The National Institute of Health recommends the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) Diet.
    • Limit sodium. Put down the salt shaker and choose processed foods less often.
    • Increase fruit and vegetable consumption. Choosing fresh produce is a must, especially those higher in potassium such as oranges, bananas, potatoes and tomatoes.
    • Choose low-fat dairy.
    • Choose fish, poultry and beans as protein sources over red meat.
    • Choose sweets less often.
    • Choose alcohol only in moderation.
  • Stop Smoking – In the short term, smoking increases your blood pressure and heart rate. Over time, smoking can affect your blood vessel walls and cause inflammation which can lead to high blood pressure over time.
  • Sleep – Those who are chronically sleep-deprived can have higher blood pressure. Make a plan to get a restful night’s sleep each night.

Don’t get overwhelmed — small changes in your habits can lead to long-term health benefits! For more tips on managing blood pressure, check out these other posts.

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