You Can Begin Lowering Your Blood Pressure Today—Here Are Five Things to Commit to Right Now
Those with uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension) are more likely to experience complications like kidney failure, heart failure, heart attacks, strokes, and even death. And because people can suffer from this condition—without symptoms—for long periods of time, it can be a silent killer. Fortunately, there are things you can do right now (yes, today!) to commit to lowering your blood pressure, and most of them are quick and painless.
Before we dive into some methods to try, it's first important to dive into hypertension's causes, which, according to Dr. Sameer K. Mehta, the president of Denver Heart and the director of the cardiac catheterizations laboratory at Rose Medical Center and Swedish Medical Center, are not widely understood. Between 90 to 95 percent of high blood pressure diagnoses are deemed as essential; this is a misused term, she says, that indicates that physicians can't determine the direct cause. "In the smaller minority of patients (five to 10 percent), a variety of causes may be the culprit, including the narrowing of the kidney arteries, over- or under-active thyroids, kidney disease, and some other rare endocrine disorders," she explains. What is better understood is treating this ailment; she outlines a few methods to dig into right now, below.
Commit to a modest weight loss goal.
Fortunately, Dr. Mehta says there are plenty of things you can do to help control your blood pressure numbers, including losing weight, if this is something that has previously been discussed with your doctor. "Overweight individuals have between a two- to six-fold increase risk of developing hypertension," she says. "Even modest weight loss is associated with a significant blood pressure reduction."
Go for that walk.
Other changes, like diet and exercise, can get those numbers down. "Regular exercise can result in a 10 to 15 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure," she says, adding that you should fit in either 30 minutes per day or 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercises, like brisk walking, jogging, gardening, biking, swimming, or tennis, to name a few. Yoga also counts, she notes. Let that be your sign, then, to take a quick break (right now!) and get moving.
Look up a few DASH diet-approved recipes.
When it comes to your health, the old adage "you are what you eat" rings particularly true. That's why Dr. Mehta suggests following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (more commonly know as DASH) diet. "This diet is rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber and protein; low in saturated fat; and low in sodium," she explains, all of which will help mitigate high blood pressure—which is why looking up a few recipes today is a great way to begin your journey towards better numbers.
Take a deep breath.
While there's no clear way to measure the effects of stress on clinical hypertension—the Mayo Clinic cites the rush of stress hormones as a cause of short-term high blood pressure—Dr. Mehta notes that there is a direct connection between high stress and other unhealthy habits that can worsen this condition, like smoking, excessive alcohol intake, poor sleep patterns, and a deficient diet.
Lay off the caffeine and salt.
According to Dr. Mehta, it's important to avoid smoking (a given for all facets of health)—but excessive caffeine intake (which she considers more than two cups of coffee a day) and too much sodium (more than four grams daily) could also be increasing your blood pressure. Easing up on those two, she notes, should lead to better results down the road. As for vitamins or supplements that claim to help hypertension? "The use of natural supplements may or may not help—unfortunately, most of these are poorly studied," she says, adding that you should talk to your doctor before adding any supplements into your diet.