Experts from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recently redefined what counts as high blood pressure*. This reclassification means the number of people with high blood pressure has risen by tens of millions in the US alone.
So if you have blood pressure, what lifestyle changes can you make to better control it? Here are 7 ways to better control your blood pressure:
1. Lose weight and watch your waistline
Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure. Losing just 10 pounds can help reduce your blood pressure.
Carrying too much weight around your waist can also put you at greater risk of high blood pressure.
Men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches.
Women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches.
2. Exercise regularly
Regular physical activity — at least 30 minutes 3-5 days per week — can lower your blood pressure.
The best types of exercise for lowering blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. Strength training can also reduce blood pressure. Talk to your doctor or a certified personal trainer about developing an exercise program that’s right for you.
3. Eat a healthy diet
Eat a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber. Reduce your sodium intake, eliminate trans fats and avoid foods that are high in cholesterol. Watch your portion control and don’t overeat. Make sure that you are drinking plenty of water on a daily basis.
4. Limit alcohol
Alcohol can be good for your health in small amounts by lowering your blood pressure by 2 to 4 mm Hg. Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can actually raise your blood pressure by several points. Moderate alcohol consumption guidelines are no more than one drink a day for women and for men older than age 65, or more than two a day for men age 65 and younger. (One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.)
Drinking too much alcohol can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
5. Quit smoking
Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. Quitting smoking can help your blood pressure return to normal. People who quit smoking, regardless of age, generally have significant increases in life expectancy.
6. Reduce your stress
Chronic stress is a major contributor to high blood pressure. Occasional stress can also contribute to high blood pressure if you react by eating unhealthy food, drinking too much alcohol or smoking. Look for ways that you can reduce or eliminate some stress in your life. Identify and avoid triggers for any unhealthy stress coping habits that you have.
7. Cut back on caffeine
If you are a habitual caffeine drinker, an increase in caffeine doesn’t necessarily increase your blood pressure. However, to see if caffeine is raising your blood pressure, check your pressure 30 minutes after drinking a caffeinated beverage. If your blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 mm Hg, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine and should reduce your caffeine intake.
*High blood pressure is now defined as readings of 130 mm Hg and higher for the systolic blood pressure measurement, or readings of 80 and higher for the diastolic measurement. This is a change from the previous definition of 140/90 and higher.