If you’re one of the 70 million Americans living with high blood pressure, you’re probably aware that a healthy lifestyle can help you keep your levels under control. But which habits offer the most BP benefits? We talked with Frank Ammaturo, MD, cardiologist at St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, Pennsylvania for blood pressure best practices.
Although French fries and chips are—let’s face it—delicious, they’re not so good for your body. “High sodium intake has been associated with high blood pressure and the American diet tends to be filled with higher levels of sodium than is recommended,” says Ammaturo. He suggests reading food labels so you know exactly how much is in your meal. “A lot of times, patients will say they don't add sodium to their meals, but that doesn't really mean they're on a low sodium diet. Processed foods, canned foods and restaurant menu items have excessive sodium,” he adds. The American Heart Association recommends you keep your daily salt consumption under 1,500 milligrams.
Regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do if you’re living with hypertension – and it doesn’t have to be hardcore. Just 30 minutes a day can reduce your blood pressure by 4-9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). “Aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, biking and swimming are preferred when you're looking at blood pressure control,” says Ammaturo. Your healthcare provider can help you create a fitness plan that’s right for you.
Watch Your Weight
If you’re overweight, losing just 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure. “Weight loss is a very important component for people who want to have well controlled blood pressure,” says Ammaturo. “Unfortunately, the rates of obesity are high in America. One in three patients are obese.” Weight loss should be a top priority if your body mass index is greater that 25, Ammaturo adds.
Drinking in moderation can be a good thing for your health—more specifically, your heart health. But overdoing it is not. “Excessive alcohol can be associated with elevated blood pressure,” says Ammaturo. Any more than one drink a day can cause your blood pressure to rise, and can lessen the effectiveness of blood pressure medications you’re taking. Remember: a serving size is 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
Smoking is hard on your body in so many ways—and when it comes to the heart, it can hurt blood vessels and harden the arteries. “Tobacco, specifically, can increase blood pressure so anybody who's concerned about their health should obviously focus on tobacco cessation,” says Ammaturo. Since it’s so addictive, Ammaturo suggests calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW or seeing your healthcare provider to get help.
Some stressful situations are inevitable, but if you’re looking to control hypertension, try to steer clear when you can. When you’re stressed, hormones increase your heart rate and constrict blood vessels, elevating your blood pressure temporarily. (That’s why your blood pressure tends to be higher at your healthcare provider’s office.) Try meditation, exercise and deep breathing if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. One study of about 21,500 Japanese adults found that taking six deep breaths over the course of 30 seconds lowered systolic pressure.
Other ways to reduce blood pressure:
Don’t Shy Away from Medication
While it’s certainly important to stick to these healthy habits, your healthcare provider may recommend other forms of treatment, too. “An ideal blood pressure appears to be 115 over 75. Anyone with something above that should focus on lifestyle changes,” says Ammaturo. If your blood pressure is higher, you’ll probably need extra help getting it down. “If your levels are above 140 over 90, we recommend medical therapy in addition to the lifestyle modifications.” Medications can reduce blood pressure levels and help you live a healthier, longer life.“In clinical trials, blood pressure medications have been shown to reduce stroke by 35 to 40 percent, reduce heart attack by 20 to 25 percent and reduce heart failure by 50 percent,” says Ammaturo. The bottom line: Take care of your body, and if you’re in need of blood pressure management, don’t be afraid of taking medications to help regulate it.
Clinically known as hypertension, high blood pressure can cause a host of problems if left untreated. The most common type of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure causes our hearts to work harder by forcing blood to push ag...ainst the walls of our arteries at an elevated level. Hypertension is the leading cause of strokes and heart attack. It also increases your risk of having heart and kidney failure and hardening of the arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis. More