High blood pressure - or hypertension - is sometimes referred to as the "silent killer," since many people don't even know they have it. In fact, the American Heart Association reports that almost one third of adults in the U.S. have HBP and are unaware of it. Furthermore, women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after menopause. The good news is that you may not need medication to control the condition. With 10 simple lifestyle changes, you can lower your blood pressure the natural way and decrease your risk of heart disease, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke.
1. Get Active As weight increases, so does blood pressure. Try to shed some pounds by exercising regularly. All it takes to lower your blood pressure is 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Exercise helps your heart use oxygen more efficiently, so it doesn't have to work as heart to pump blood. Try going for brisk power walks at least a few times a week. As you get stronger, you can increase your pace and frequency of walks.
2. Eat Less Sodium With even the slightest decrease in your intake of sodium, you can lower your blood pressure by up to 8 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Try limiting your sodium intake to less than 1,500 milligrams (mg) per day. If you don't want to track how much sodium you consume, you can take simple steps like eating fewer processed foods (potato chips and bacon, for example) and not adding salt to your meals.
3. Chill Out Stress can raise blood pressure by activating the sympathetic nervous system. Experts aren't sure if short-term blood pressure spikes lead to long-term high blood pressure, but they agree that lowering your stress level can only do good things for the condition. Try freeing up some time in your schedule every day to relax doing a peaceful activity you enjoy, such as yoga, walking, or meditation.
4. Get Plenty Of Vitamin C Some say that vitamin C works as well as prescription medications when it comes to lowering blood pressure. One study showed that HBP was lowered an average of 9 percent after participants added a daily intake of 500 mg of vitamin c to their diet for a month.
5. Eat Foods That Are High In Potassium Potassium is necessary to the healthy functioning of nerves, cells, and membranes. Doctors recommend a diet rich in potassium to prevent hypertension. Good sources of potassium are bananas, dried apricots, avocados, acorn squash, baked potatoes, kidney beans, and citrus fruits.
6. Drink Less Alcohol If you drink more than a moderate amount of alcohol, you risk increasing your blood pressure by several points. However, very light drinking (less than one drink per day) has been shown to actually reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease. So, if you drink, do so sparingly.
7. Get Plenty Of Shuteye Sleeping less than six hours per day may be a risk factor for high blood pressure. Sleep helps to regulate stress hormones and keeps your nervous system healthy. Try to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep each night.
8. Switch To Decaf Caffeine can tighten blood vessels, which has a tendency to magnify the effects of stress, leading to higher blood pressure. One study found that those who drank about three cups of coffee per day increased their blood pressure by 4 mmhg. If you're an avid coffee drinker, try to taper yourself off caffeine by gradually switching to decaf.
9. Work Less Being on the job for more than 40 hours per week can increase your risk of hypertension by 15 percent, according to one study. In American society, we are expected to be as productive as possible and to get the job done, no matter how long it takes and what the consequences may be. It's up to you to rebel against this popular Western notion and think of your health first.
10. Drink Tea Tea can be helpful in controlling your blood pressure. One study showed that drinking half a cup of green or oolong tea each day for a year reduced the risk of high blood pressure by nearly 50 percent. Those who drank over two cups per day reduced their risk further. Another study showed hibiscus tea to be effective in lowering blood pressure, probably due to the phytochemicals it contains.
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