The American Heart Association reports that as many as 100 million Americans have high blood pressure, putting them at risk for heart attack and stroke. Also called hypertension, this condition occurs when the force pushing against your artery walls is too great.
Most people experience no symptoms, and many are unaware that they have high blood pressure. Yet this condition can silently damage your body and increase your risk for serious complications. Early diagnosis and making simple changes are key to protecting your heart health. We’ve outlined five practical ways you can lower your blood pressure without medication.
1. Maintain a healthy weight
The relationship between hypertension and obesity is well established. Carrying excess body fat is detrimental to your health. It increases the risk for chronic diseases, including high blood pressure. Being overweight or obese places stress on many body systems, including your cardiovascular system. The good news is losing even a modest amount of weight has a powerful impact on blood pressure.
If you’re overweight, slimming down is one of the best steps you can take toward naturally lowering your blood pressure. A healthy body mass index (BMI) is 20 to 25. A BMI of 25.5 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 or above is obese. Talk to your primary care provider about a plan to bring your weight within a healthy range if your BMI is outside the normal range.
2. Get plenty of physical activity
Exercise is a medication-free approach to lowering blood pressure. When you engage in physical activity, your heart muscle becomes stronger, your circulation improves, and your heart can work less to pump blood throughout your body. Because your heart doesn’t need to work as hard, the force against your arteries decreases.
If you have high blood pressure, getting regular exercise can help bring it into a safer range. Doctors recommend that you get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week, for a total of 150 minutes each week.
3. Manage your cholesterol
Elevated cholesterol contributes to high blood pressure. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body needs a small amount of to function properly. When you have too much cholesterol in your blood, however, it can accumulate in your blood vessels, causing them to narrow, harden, and become stiff. This causes your heart to work harder and the force against your arteries to rise.
Talk to your doctor about the best approach to getting your cholesterol levels in check if you’ve been told that you have elevated cholesterol. Saturated fat — found in animal-based foods — is the single most influential dietary nutrient when it comes to elevated cholesterol. Cutting back on saturated fat in your diet can lower cholesterol and help bring blood pressure into a healthier range.
4. Adopt a heart-healthy diet
Diet plays a role in keeping your heart and blood pressure healthy. A heart-healthy diet, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, emphasizes eating vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.
Controlling your sodium intake is another key aspect of eating for a healthier heart. Sodium increases fluid retention, which increases pressure against your arteries. Cutting back on processed foods that contain excess sugar, fat, and salt goes a long way in helping to bring your blood sugar within a safer range.
5. Stop smoking
Most Americans know that smoking cigarettes has a negative impact on health — it’s proven to be harmful to your circulatory system. Smoking causes arteries to become hard and stiff, increasing the pressure against them.
Quitting smoking is an important lifestyle change that can help reduce your blood pressure. If you’ve tried to quit on your own without success, talk to your primary care provider about getting help to quit.
The team at CA Heart and Vein Specialists helps men and women manage hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions. When diet and lifestyle changes alone fail to control your blood pressure, medications can help. To get your blood pressure under control, call our office in Huntington Beach, California, to schedule an appointment or make a request online.