You’ve been told you have high blood pressure and now your doctor wants to start you on medication to treat it. The trouble is you’d rather not have to take any medication. You’re concerned about possible side effects of lightheadedness, feeling tired, nervous and developing headaches. And then there’s cost factor.
High blood pressure is a common occurrence affecting up to more than a third of all adults in the United States. It is defined as having a systolic pressure (the top number in a reading) of at least 140 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), or a diastolic pressure (the bottom number) of at least 90 mm HG or both. High blood pressure is a condition that injures blood vessel walls forcing the heart to work harder, increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke.
The good news is there are many lifestyle modifications you can do starting today that are equally as important as taking a hypertensive medication. Discuss with your doctor about the possibility of reducing the amount of medication necessary for treating high blood pressure. Tell him your concerns and bring up others methods you can use to control your blood pressure better. Never stop taking high blood pressure on your own without consulting your doctor. Instead begin making changes within your life that can greatly improve your blood pressure into a more normal range.
Here are lifestyle modifications that do not involve taking pills to control blood pressure:
· Eat a heart-healthy diet
Become a lover of fruits and veggies. These antioxidant-rich produce full of potassium and magnesium while low in sodium have been shown to improve vascular health while reducing inflammation. Each day have a variety of foods that promote heart-health and good blood pressure such as all berries, red cabbage, spinach, avocados, squash, tomatoes, citrus fruit and broccoli.
· Exercise daily
Be physically active at least 30 minutes most days if not every day of the week. Get your heart rate elevated with aerobic exercise (brisk walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, jumping rope, bicycling, etc.) which has the potential to lower systolic blood pressure as much as four to nine points.
· Lose weight
Individuals who are overweight to obese are putting themselves at risk for high blood pressure. There is an approximate threefold risk in increasing high blood pressure in anyone who is carrying extra weight. For each pound a person loses, they may be able to lower both systolic and diastolic pressure on average of one point.
· Reduce sodium intake
For some individuals, a high sodium intake increases the amount of body fluid and blood volume making the heart work harder. Limit sodium intake to no more than 2300 milligrams a day that may have the potential to lower systolic blood pressure by two to eight points. Following the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) has been shown to help immensely those needing to lower their blood pressure.
· Put down that alcoholic drink
Drinking alcohol has the potential to raise blood pressure. Limit alcohol to one drink a day if you are a woman or two drinks a day if you are a man. By doing so, this can has the potential to reduce systolic blood pressure by two to four points.
· Increase potassium-rich foods
Load up on foods high in potassium – sweet potatoes, white beans, bananas, honeydew melon, orange juice, avocado, and spinach. These high blood pressure warriors help relax blood vessels and eliminate sodium.
· Chill out
Stress is a daily thing for all of us but chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure. When we learn to relax this can activate genes associated with dilating the blood vessels utilizing blood sugar, and inactivates genes associated with vascular inflammation and constriction. Start by practicing techniques of meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, and guided imagery.
· Stop smoking
Kicking a smoking habit is one of the single biggest factors one can do to lower blood pressure. Cigarettes’ nicotine constricts blood vessels making the heart work harder, leading to hypertension. Just quitting smoking can lower systolic blood pressure by two to eight points.
· Treat sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a possible contributor to hypertension. Getting diagnosed and then treating it with a continuous positive airway pressure or a dental appliance may help lower blood pressure and give you a better night’s sleep.
· Monitor blood pressure at home
Checking your blood pressure daily at home has been shown to motivate a person to work harder at improving your numbers. Early morning is the best time to take your blood pressure before taking blood pressure medications and then again in the evening.