High blood pressure is often called the silent killer, and with good reason. It has no symptoms and affects 75 million people in the U.S. — or 1 in 3 adults. Of those who have high blood pressure (also called hypertension), only half have their blood pressure under control.
It’s normal for blood pressure to be high temporarily, such as when you exercise, are in a stressful situation or drink caffeine. However, when blood pressure is consistently higher than the standard 120/80, it can cause numerous health problems, including heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, heart failure and vision loss.
Keys to Lowering Blood Pressure
Getting high blood pressure under control is vital, and there are several ways you can do it. Your doctor may recommend prescription medicines. Depending on your health history and blood pressure numbers, your doctor also may recommend natural ways to manage your blood pressure — either instead of or in addition to medicines.
These natural methods also can be used as preventive measures to lower the risk of developing high blood pressure:
Eating a healthy diet is essential. Cutting back on sodium, sugar and processed foods is beneficial. Eating more potassium, fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and low-fat dairy products also is helpful. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet, recommended by the American Heart Association, provides guidelines on an eating plan that helps decrease blood pressure.
Maintaining a healthy weight is helpful because blood pressure increases with weight gain. Losing 10 pounds can help your blood pressure go down. The DASH Diet mentioned above also is a great healthy-eating program and can help with weight loss.
Exercising regularly, particularly with aerobic exercise, makes your heart stronger and more efficient. This puts less force on your arteries, which decreases blood pressure.
Getting enough sleep helps lower high blood pressure. When you sleep, your blood pressure naturally goes down. However, most adult Americans don’t get the recommended minimum seven hours of sleep per night.
Avoiding smoking helps. When you smoke, you temporarily increase your blood pressure. Long-term, you also increase plaque buildup in the arteries, which is associated with high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends no smoking and avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke.
Avoiding drinking too much alcohol reduces the likelihood of elevated levels of fat, or triglycerides, in the blood, which can lead to high blood pressure. The American Heart Association suggests that if you drink, do so in moderation. For women, that means an average of one drink a day, and for men, two drinks a day.
Managing stress effectively decreases bouts of long-term tension that can raise blood pressure. Everyone feels stress sometimes, and that tension temporarily raises the blood pressure. When that tension is prolonged, blood pressure can stay elevated. Employing healthy habits like changing expectations, practicing gratitude and using self-care to destress is vital.
What’s Better than a Cure?
Remember that prevention is better than a cure. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very important for preventing high blood pressure. Hypertension is underdiagnosed and undertreated in the U.S., so regular appointments with a healthcare professional are key for early diagnosis of hypertension.
Knowing your numbers and goals of treatment is the first step toward getting high blood pressure under control after it is diagnosed. If you’re prescribed medications, taking them regularly is critical. Several natural steps for lowering your blood pressure can enhance the effects of your medication or put you on a path for better health without medicine.
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