If your doctor has given you a diagnosis of high blood pressure, was it hard for you to believe at first? And even harder to accept treatment for it? After all, you look okay, eat reasonably healthy, and are pretty active. Plus, you feel just fine. The truth is, because symptoms don’t usually present themselves until blood pressure is dangerously high, many people can have it for years and not even realize it. However, visible symptoms or not, damage to your heart and blood vessels can be sustained through years of unchecked elevated pressure in your arteries and heart. Blood pressure is literally the force of blood against your artery walls and the amount of blood your heart pumps. The higher volume of blood pumped, and the narrower your arteries are, the higher your blood pressure is. If this condition is one that you call your own, you’re not alone. In fact, nearly 1 in 3 American adults have a diagnosis of high blood pressure, or hypertension. Although a full half of those affected have their hypertension under control, this disease remains the cause of 1,000 deaths per day, and costs the nation $46 billion each year with work days missed, health care services, and medications. So if you are one of the “high-pressure” masses, there are things you can do to manage your hypertension, aside from medication.
- Get moving. Really, is there anything that exercise can’t do? It turns out that exercising for at least 30 minutes, most days of the week, on an ongoing, consistent basis, can lower blood pressure by 4 to 9 mm Hg.
- Slash the salt. When you have hypertension, sodium is a pervasive, sneaky, ubiquitous culprit, and getting rid of it takes some work. Many pre-prepared, packaged, and canned food contains a shockingly high level of salt. The solution (and a good money-saver to boot)? Make your own. Cook your own beans, make your own pasta sauce, and simmer your own soup. Herbs, vinegars, hot sauces, and citrus juices can make delicious, zesty salt alternatives. Great low-sodium recipes abound online, and we found some good ones here: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/collections/high_blood_pressure_diet
- Do the DASH. Rather, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet. This is hypertension-busting eating plan is sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health, and can lower blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg. It includes plenty of whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, and vegetables.
- Keep stress in check. Although occasional stress, and the way we react to it (smoking, overeating) can affect our blood pressure, it’s the chronic stress that does the more significant damage to blood pressure levels. Try taking an honest look at what is causing your stress, and then work to eliminate or adjust the stressful aspects. Also, try to incorporate some relaxation techniques into your daily routine. Taking 15 minutes a day for prayer, meditation, or deep-breathing can have surprisingly impactful results. Lastly, don’t forget to keep your favorite activities a priority, no matter now packed or stressful your schedule becomes.