Blood pressure is a foundational indicator of good health. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a major cause of heart attacks and stroke. It’s called “the silent killer” because you might have it for a long time without realizing it.
Nearly half of adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, and only 25% of them have it under control.
Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg. The top number (systolic) shows the pressure when your heart beats. The bottom number (diastolic) measures the pressure in between beats when your heart rests.
The good news for our health is that most of us can regulate our blood pressure with a few simple lifestyle changes. Here are six healthy habits for better blood pressure.
1. Lose weight
Yep. There it is again. But you don’t have to lose very much before you start to see the benefits. A review of studies looking at the effect of weight loss on blood pressure found that losing about 9 pounds resulted in an average decrease of 4.5 mm Hg in systolic pressure and 3.2 mm Hg in diastolic.
If you’re trying to lose weight, a healthy diet with plenty of lean protein can help you feel full longer, so you end up eating less. A reputable protein powder can be a quick and easy way to include more protein in your diet.
2. Exercise regularly
A study of sedentary adults showed that incorporating exercise into their daily routine lowered their systolic pressure 3.9% and diastolic 4.5%. The American Heart Association recommends you shoot for 150 minutes of exercise per week (about 5 30-minute sessions).
That might feel overwhelming if you’re just starting out. Shorter and more frequent exercise will also help. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, work in the garden, or even do house cleaning.
3. Reduce sodium
To cut out salt, the most important thing you can do is cut down on processed foods and eating out. In fact, 70% of your sodium comes from prepared and packaged foods, not the salt you shake on at home.
Another tip is to be wary of foods labeled as low-fat. They often have much more sodium and sugar to compensate for the loss of flavor from fat.
Your daily sodium intake should be no higher than 2300 mg. Check those food labels! Foods with 115 mg or less of sodium per serving are considered low-sodium, and 460 mg per serving is considered high.
4. Eat a healthy diet
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends the DASH diet (dietary approaches to stop hypertension): fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, and nuts. Steer clear of red meat, saturated fats, and sweets.
5. Quit smoking
Smoking causes an immediate spike in your blood pressure and may increase your heart rate. What’s more, long-term smoking damages your lungs and causes your blood vessels to narrow, leading to increased blood pressure.
Children who inhale secondhand smoke also have higher blood pressure than those who don’t. Quitting smoking will benefit your whole family.
6. Manage stress
Chronic high stress in your life can increase your blood pressure. While you can’t avoid every stressor, here are some ideas that can help.
Avoid your triggers. If you know morning traffic ratchets you up, try leaving earlier or taking public transit. Use the time to listen to a podcast or audiobook that engages your mind.
Your daily exercise is also going to help you mitigate your stress level—a benefit double dip!
Don’t wait until all of your work is done to relax—it will never happen. Like you would for other meetings, schedule time to loosen up and do activities you like. Meditate or practice deep breathing. Read a book (news may not be so relaxing) or take a walk. See a friend. Add a stress-mitigating supplement like ashwagandha or drink a warm cup of passionflower tea at night to help you wind down.
Taken all together these suggestions may feel overwhelming. But big results can come from even small changes. Don’t underestimate the power of consistent changes. Each choice you make is a step closer to a lower blood pressure and a healthier you.
Let’s get healthier, together,
Your friends at Santo Remedio
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