When you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, the first thing you probably think of is medication, and more specifically, the fact that you will likely have to take it for the rest of your life. Nobody likes the idea of becoming beholden to a drug, but considering that the alternative is life-threatening heart disease, stroke, aneurism, or any number of other uncomfortable side effects, you’re prepared to take ten pills a day if your doctor orders it. Fortunately, you may not have to. While medication is certainly an option, those who are averse to filling their body with chemicals may be interested to know that there are a number of alternatives to consider, in the form of lifestyle changes that may offer the same outcome.
- Sodium, the silent killer. The seemingly innocent spice that we call salt is in everything we eat, and it is a major contributor to high blood pressure. You don’t have to go to the extreme of cutting it out of your diet completely, but if you start tracking how much you ingest in a day, you’ll likely find that you’re way over the limit. Besides reducing your salt intake, try increasing your potassium consumption to lessen the effects of sodium in your bloodstream. Making an effort to control your sodium intake is the quickest way to see a drop in blood pressure.
- Watch your weight. Hypertension is often linked to weight, especially when your extra pounds rest around your waistline. In general, men with a waist measurement over 40 inches and women with a measurement over 35 inches are considered at higher risk for heart disease (it may vary by race and size, so check with your doctor to determine your personal risk level). So dropping a few pounds and inches from your midsection could make a big difference.
- Diet. You no doubt have a fair notion of what’s good (Mediterranean diet) and bad (cheeseburgers) when it comes to your heart health. But if you need a little help, just talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about how to get on track with healthy eating habits for life.
- Exercise. This is essential to your overall body and heart health. Regular cardio exercise can lower your blood pressure significantly and leave you feeling better than you have in years. If you already have a routine in place, talk to your doctor about how you can change it up to ensure the desired results.
- Alcohol and tobacco. Believe it or not, a little bit of alcohol can actually be good for your heart and help to lower blood pressure. However, moderation is the key. Bingeing or having more than one drink a day can do just the opposite. As for tobacco products, they may seem to calm you, but in fact, nicotine is a stimulant, one that may cause any number of problems with your system, hypertension among them. It not only raises your blood pressure, but it is also a vasoconstrictor that makes it harder for your heart to pump blood throughout your body. All in all, it is best avoided.
- Stress. The physical side effects of stress are still largely un-catalogued, mainly because every person reacts to it differently. But one thing is certain, the first place you will see it is in your blood pressure readout. So eliminate stressors whenever possible and make relaxation a priority. This is likely to reduce hypertension and it will definitely help you cope with the other lifestyle changes you’re implementing.