By controlling your blood pressure with these healthy lifestyle changes, you could possibly avoid the need for medication.
- Lose extra pounds. Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight also may cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnoea), which further raises your blood pressure. Losing just 4.5 kilograms can help reduce your blood pressure.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity, such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing, for at least 30 minutes three times a week, can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 mm Hg. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure.
- Watch your diet. A diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products could lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg provided you also avoid saturated fat and cholesterol. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
- Be salt smart. In general, limit sodium to less than 2300 mg per day or less (half a teaspoon of salt contains about 1200 mg of sodium).
- Boost your potassium. To lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure, choose foods rich in potassium (sweet potatoes, tomatoes, orange juice, potatoes, bananas, kidney beans, peas, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, prunes and raisins). Aim for potassium levels of 2000 to 4000 mg a day.
- Limit alcohol. In some cases, up to two drinks per day for men and one for women and men older than age 65 may show a subtle drop in blood pressure. However experts agree that the drop is not significant enough to warrant the drinking of alcohol for most people. Alcohol can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
- Quit smoking. Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish; people who quit smoking, regardless of age, have substantial increases in life expectancy.
- Switch to decaffeinated coffee. Caffeine can raise blood pressure by tightening blood vessels and by magnifying the effects of stress. One study found that one cup of drip coffee increased blood pressure by 4 mm Hg and that the effect lasted until bedtime.
- Take up tea. Sipping three cups of a hibiscus tea daily has been shown to lower systolic blood pressure by seven points in six weeks on average (similar to many prescription medications). Many herbal teas contain hibiscus; look for blends that list it near the top of the chart of ingredients, as this often indicates a higher concentration per serving.
- Treat yourself. The flavanols in dark chocolate make blood vessels more elastic. Eating 14 g of dark chocolate per day may reduce blood pressure, but make sure it contains at least 70% cocoa.
- Reduce stress. Slow breathing, prayer, meditation and listening to soothing music helps decrease stress hormones, which elevate renin (a kidney enzyme that raises blood pressure).
- Regular check-ups are vital. If your blood pressure is under control, you might need to visit your doctor only every six to 12 months, depending on other conditions you might have. If your blood pressure isn’t well-controlled, your doctor will likely want to see you more frequently.