If you have high blood pressure, you’re not alone. In fact, using the new definition of high blood pressure — 130/80 mmHg or greater, on average, as measured at rest on two separate occasions — one out of every two American adults is affected.
While it’s normal and healthy for blood pressure to fluctuate throughout the day, when your blood pressure stays elevated it can lead to many health problems — like heart attacks, stroke and even congestive heart failure.
Many people require medications to control their blood pressure. However, there are several things you can do that will help to make it easier to manage your readings — or even avoid high blood pressure in the first place.
Lose Weight, Especially Around Your Waistline
As your waistline increases, so does blood pressure. Men with waistlines greater than 40 inches and women with waistlines over 35 inches are at greater risk for developing hypertension compared to those with smaller waistlines.
If you were ever in need of any more motivation to drop a few pounds, here it is! Weight loss is the most effective method for avoiding high blood pressure and for lowering the number of medications needed to control your readings.
Weight loss helps lower high blood pressure and can be achieved by reducing calorie intake, but becoming more physically active can help as well.
Regular exercise, whether it’s walking or tai-chi class, for at least 30 minutes a day keeps blood pressure regulated and reduces stress. Stress can also play a role in elevating blood pressure, so it’s two benefits in one!
Eat the Right Foods
A balanced diet that is rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and fiber — but also limited in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol — can help lower and maintain your blood pressure.
This dietary pattern has been shown to lower blood pressure by an average of 10 points — that’s the same effect that you’d expect from a prescription medication. The other benefit? A diet rich in plant-based foods is almost always lower in calories, making weight loss easier.
Mind Your Vices
In controlled amounts, alcohol has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease. However, going beyond one drink per day can actually raise blood pressure. Alcohol is also a source of empty calories. That can make it a double whammy if you’re hoping to lower your blood pressure by losing weight.
Also, if you smoke, you must quit. Besides raising your risk of heart attacks, stroke and various cancers, components in tobacco smoke act as vasoconstrictors — meaning they temporarily narrow blood vessels — driving up blood pressure readings.
These are just some of the ways in which you can gain more control over your health and lower your blood pressure naturally.
Biggest bonus? When you live in a way that supports lower blood pressure — by eating better, moving more and avoiding excess alcohol and tobacco — you are also decreasing your risk for many other chronic health conditions.
But if making all these lifestyle changes seems overwhelming, or you’re not sure where to start, it’s a good idea to tackle diet first because nutrition is the foundation of health. Even if it doesn’t immediately seem like it, really small changes in your diet can yield big improvements.
For example, just incorporating two snacks that are high in fiber, nuts and fruit into your diet — like Step One Foods products — on a regular basis can help you lose weight, lower cholesterol and decrease blood pressure. After all, food affects everything — and everyone.
But no matter what, do not ignore high blood pressure. It can be treated. And even if that requires medication, it’s important to control. After all, it isn’t called the “silent killer” for no reason.