So you’ve been recently diagnosed with high blood pressure. Now what? While that’s not a fun diagnosis, you can at least take comfort in knowing you’re in good company. According to statistics, about 45% of adults in the United States have the same condition.
Even though it’s common, high blood pressure is potentially very serious. It can affect your quality of life and even lead to death if it isn’t treated. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about how serious your high blood pressure is and if you need to take medication to combat it.
Whether or not you’re prescribed medication, you can do a lot on your own to combat high blood pressure. Here are five simple lifestyle changes that may help you bring your blood pressure back into the normal range.
1. Reduce Your Sodium Intake
Sodium is one of the most harmful things you can consume if you have high blood pressure. Too much salt intake causes your body to hold onto extra water, which can in turn cause your blood pressure to skyrocket.
The problem is that most prepared foods contain massive amounts of sodium. Don’t believe me? Take a look at some of your favorite food labels. Add up all the foods you eat throughout the day and you’re probably consuming way too much sodium.
When you have high blood pressure, you’re advised to consume just 1,500 mg of sodium per day. That may sound like a lot, but it translates to a measly ¾ teaspoon of salt. A single Egg McMuffin breakfast sandwich contains half that amount. Yikes!
To carefully monitor your sodium intake, you should try to prepare your own foods. That way you know exactly how much salt you’re consuming every day.
2. Lose the Excess Pounds
Losing weight seems to be the cure for many different physical ailments, doesn’t it? When you lose excess pounds, you’re likely to lower your blood pressure as well. If losing weight seems too difficult, focus on getting rid of just two pounds at a time. Small goals are easier to reach than large goals.
3. Limit Alcohol Intake
Alcohol can increase your blood pressure. So if you like to enjoy a little booze on a regular basis, consider cutting back. There are alcohol-free alternatives you can try to get the same flavor without the negative blood pressure side effects.
4. Stick to an Exercise Routine
Just 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week can help combat high blood pressure. To make sure you stick with your exercise routine, choose something that’s fun to do. If you hate walking, don’t do it. Instead, opt for dancing, hikes, kayaking and other activities you enjoy. Take a friend along with you, since you’re more likely to stick to an exercise routine if you know someone else is counting on you.
5. Minimize Stress
Stress is a slow killer, which means that its impact is felt over time. A little bit of occasional stress probably won’t hurt you in the long run, but chronic stress can lead to increased blood pressure. To minimize your stress, get adequate sleep at night, learn to say “no” when you can’t handle additional responsibilities, and try engaging in meditation and other relaxation techniques.
The good news is that these lifestyle changes can make a huge impact on your overall health. If you struggle most with diet and exercise, try hiring a nutritionist or personal trainer to help you. If you love your alcohol, try swapping it out with beverages that deliver the same flavor without the harmful side effects (such as kombucha and non-alcoholic mixed drinks). With a little motivation and a lot of persistence, you can do a lot on your own to lower your blood pressure.