10 Things You Can Do to Lower Your Blood Pressure

May 26, 2016

10 Things You Can Do to Lower Your Blood Pressure

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Blood pressure is the force of blood against your artery walls as it's circulating through your body. When blood pressure stays high, it can cause health problems including heart disease and stroke. Nearly 70 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure. This equates to 1 in every 3 adults.

10 Ways to Avoid Hypertension

1. Maintain a healthy weight

It’s common that blood pressure and body weight increase together, so watching your waistline is often the first step to heart health. Fortunately, it doesn’t take a huge weight reduction to improve your circulation. Most people can reduce their blood pressure after losing just 10 pounds.

Specifically, carrying an excess of weight at your waistline can put you at a greater risk of hypertension and heart disease. Men should strive to bring their waist measurement below 40 inches, with women reducing their risk at less than 35 inches. Be sure to consult your doctor about finding a healthy waistline measurement for you as these numbers are known to vary among different ethnic groups.

2. Find time to exercise regularly

Depending on your mobility as an older adult, your options for exercise are likely to vary. Usually, it is recommended to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. Doing so can lower your blood pressure anywhere from 4 to 9 mm Hg, although it is important to maintain your schedule to keep it from rising again.

The best ways to lower your blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, yoga, and swimming. For older adults, it’s best to choose a low-impact activity to avoid the risk of injury. Water aerobics is a favorite of many due to the ability to exercise the entire body in a soft environment.

3. Develop a healthy diet

Coupled with exercise, a healthy diet is critical to maintaining a proper blood pressure level. Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products can reduce hypertension and limit any further development of blood pressure-related diseases. Below is a list of foods that have shown methods of reducing high blood pressure in adults:

  • Low-fat Dairy
  • Salmon
  • Whole Grains
  • Pomegranates
  • Pistachios
  • Beets
  • Olive Oil
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Flaxseed
  • Hibiscus Tea

4. Limit your sodium intake

Although sodium is known to exacerbate heart conditions and issues with blood pressure, it varies between different groups of people. Generally, it is recommended that African Americans, people age 51 and older, and individuals with diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and heart conditions consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.

Processed foods like soup and tomato products usually contain excessive amounts of sodium. Always try to read the labels of any packaged foods you buy and try to opt for choices that allow you to add your own amount of salt.

Adding more herbs and spices to your dishes can be great ways to keep your palate and your heart satisfied!

5. Don’t drink to excess

Although a reasonable glass of red wine can actually help increase your HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, too much alcohol can eventually begin harming your heart and blood flow. HDL is what’s considered the “good” cholesterol, helping to remove plaque buildup from the arteries, which in turn can lower blood pressure. However, alcohol is still best consumed in very moderate amounts, especially for seniors with high blood pressure.

Generally, one drink is equal to a 12-ounce beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor, and only one ounce of harder liquor (100-proof). It’s recommended that seniors have no more than 3 drinks a day at the very most, yet for people with heart conditions or hypertension, it is probably best to stay away from drinking entirely.

6. Stop Smoking

Making the effort to stop smoking is one of the single most important health decisions you can make, no matter your age. By tossing tobacco aside, you’ll be limiting your risk of heart attack, stroke, bronchitis, cataracts, and cancer.

Although it can be extremely difficult to quit after years of smoking, getting support from your loved ones or a professional coach can help kick the habit. Not only will eliminating smoking improve your health, but it will give your loved ones a peace of mind in knowing that you are making an effort to take care of your wellbeing. By now, you’ve probably faced and overcome many challenges in your life — just try to add this one to the list!

7. Kick Caffeine Habits

Drinking caffeine has been shown to cause a short, but significant increase in blood pressure, even for those without hypertension. Researchers are unsure whether caffeine causes more adrenaline to be released, or if it blocks hormones that keep your arteries widened. However, it is certain that drinks like coffee, soda, and other energy beverages are not the best choice for limiting the effects of hypertension.

Instead of coffee, try switching to other options like hibiscus or white teas. These teas have a wealth of antioxidants that can help boost heart health, lower cholesterol, and even reduce the risk of cancer. There are plenty of different variations and flavors to explore in the world of tea, so it can be exciting to find a healthy and delicious choice for your morning pick-me-up.

8. Stress Management

Stress has direct effects on our body, releasing hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) into the blood. These hormones create what is known as a “fight or flight response,” causing the heart to beat faster and blood vessels to constrict more tightly. Although these effects are mostly temporary, frequent stress can make lowering your blood pressure difficult.

Learning ways to calm your thoughts and slow your pace can help your stress start to melt away. Meditation, deep breathing, and yoga are great and healthy ways to manage your daily annoyances. Practicing for just 15-30 minutes a day can have numerous benefits on your mental and physical wellbeing. Listening to music or taking some personal spa time can also contribute to your ability in dealing with stress.

9. Get your blood pressure taken regularly

After age 18, it’s recommended that everyone get their blood pressure taken at least twice a year. Primary hypertension usually develops over the years, so monitoring the progression of your condition is important in order to learn what changes you can make for a healthier life.

If you take your own blood pressure, always get a reading from each arm. This will allow you to better understand if your circulation is even throughout your body, pointing to any blockages and where they might be. To learn about how blood pressure is measured you can head over to the American Heart Association website.

10. Become aware of any underlying conditions causing a higher blood pressure

If you have high blood pressure it could be a result of a preexisting condition, known as secondary hypertension. Although high blood pressure doesn’t necessarily indicate another medical condition, possible related diseases and disorders include:

  • Diabetic nephropathy
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Glomerular disease
  • Renovascular hypertension
  • Cushing Syndrome
  • Aldosteronism
  • Pheochromocytoma
  • Thyroid issues
  • Coarctation of the aorta
  • Sleep apnea
  • Obesity
  • Medications*

*  Medications such as decongestants, over the counter pain relievers, and some prescription drugs can increase your risk of high blood pressure.

Consult your doctor before adding any new supplement or vitamin to your regimen to avoid unwanted drug interactions. If you suspect that there may be other health factors causing your high blood pressure, always provide your healthcare provider with all the information you can.

Remember, high blood pressure doesn’t show many symptoms until it is dangerously excessive, so regular check-ups can really help you stay on top of the condition. Finding which of these suggestions work for you can make the difference in managing your hypertension today!

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Frequently Asked Questions

What percent of the population has high blood pressure?

In general, over 50 million people in the United States have high blood pressure. According to Heart.org, the following percentage of adults age 20 and older have high blood pressure in the United States.

  • Non-Hispanic whites: 33.4 percent of men and 30.7 percent of women
  • Non-Hispanic blacks: 42.6 percent of men and 47.0 percent of women
  • Mexican Americans: 30.1 percent of men and 28.8 percent of women  

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What blood pressure reading is considered normal for an elderly adult?

Typically, a blood pressure of 120/80 is considered normal. However, for elderly adults (60 or older) a reading of 140/90 is considered acceptable but could indicate pre-hypertension. Generally speaking, most seniors do have higher blood pressures, even if they don't experience hypertension. If you’re worried that your blood pressure may be too high, consult your doctor and always opt for a professional cardiovascular assessment. 

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