Lifestyle plays an important role in hypertension and its treatment. If you effectively manage your blood pressure through healthy living, you could prevent, slow down or decrease a need for treatment through medication.
If you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension, you may be apprehensive about taking drugs to bring it under control. By making some small adjustments to your lifestyle, you can bring your blood pressure down and reduce the risk of illnesses such as heart disease, without the use of medication.
- Lose weight
Never mind medicine, common sense dictates that blood pressure will usually rise if your weight increases. Being overweight may additionally cause interrupted breathing when you’re asleep (sleep apnoea) the knock-on effect will add further pressure increases.
Losing weight is by far one of the most valuable changes for managing blood pressure that you can do. Losing even a little bit of weight can go some way toward reducing your blood pressure.
Normally your blood pressure is around 120 over 80 mm of mercury (mmHg). Hypertension is when this is raised to above 130 over 80 mmHg.
A rough guide
For every 1 kilo (2.2lbs.) you lose, you could reduce hypertension by around 1 millimetre of mercury (mmHg).
- Men are at greater risk if their waist is more than 40in.
- Women are at greater risk if their waist is more than 35in.
- Exercise regularly
Exercise can help you prevent the development of hypertension in the first place, with regular physical exercise, taken as around 30 minutes most days, this can reduce your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mmHg. Your blood pressure can rise again if you are not consistent with your exercise regime.
If you already have raised levels, regular physical activity can help to bring your pressure down to safer concentrations.
Examples of aerobic exercise
This doesn’t always mean joining a gym, or taking part in classes, this can be getting out of the car and walking the kids to school, or getting off the bus to work a couple of stops earlier, or dancing with friends on a night out.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) alternates short bursts of activity with consequent recovery periods and strength training could also help reduce hypertension. Target strength training on at least two of your exercise days. Talk to your GP surgery about help with an exercise programme.
- Eat a healthy diet
Having a diet poor in fruit, veg and whole grains and rich in cholesterol and fatty acids can increase your blood pressure by up to 11 mmHg.
It isn’t easy to change your eating habits, but there is an eating plan called DASH, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, which might help.
Keep a food diary; what you eat, how much, when and why.
- Reduce sodium and increase potassium
Reducing sodium, even by a small amount, can help improve your general health plus reduce your blood pressure by about 5 to 6 mmHg. Boosted potassium intake can actually lessen the effects of sodium in the body with the best sources coming from food (fruit and vegetables, instead of supplements).
To reduce sodium intake:
- Read food labels.
- Pick low-sodium alternatives.
- Eat less foods that are processed.
- Don’t add salt to food: 1 level tsp. of salt is equivalent to 2300mg of sodium.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
Alcohol can be good or it can be bad for your health. Drinking in moderation, one drink a day for women, or two a day for men, can possibly lower your blood pressure by about 4 mmHg.
However, this protective effect is squandered if you then drink more than that, as alcohol can raise blood pressure by numerous points.
- Stop smoking
Every cigarette you have raises your blood pressure even after you put it out. Stopping can reduce hypertension, reduce the risk of heart disease and recover your general health.
The debate is still open on the effects of caffeine in relation to hypertension. Caffeine has been known to increase pressure by up to 10 mmHg in people who don’t drink it very often, although people who drink coffee habitually may see little or no effect at all.
Further research is needed but stress may well contribute to hypertension, with a contributory factor of reacting to stressors by drinking alcohol, smoking or comfort eating unhealthy food.
Eliminating stress is the most important you can at least cope with them in a healthier Take some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as work, family, finances or illness. Once you know what’s causing your stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress.
- Plan and focus on your priorities
- Avoid taking on too much
- Learn to say no
- Avoid stress triggers
- Do activities you enjoy
- Take time out: sit quietly and breathe deeply
- Monitor your own blood pressure
- help you keep an eye on your blood pressure
- ensure changes to your lifestyle are working
Monitors are widely available without prescription.
Don’t do this on your own. Family or friends can help encourage and support you to take more care of yourself. Ask them to help with a food diary or go walking with you, if you’re out for a meal, ask them to skip dessert with you or not add salt to your meal at home.
There is also support available beyond your circle of family and friends, ask about support groups. Touching base with people who are in a shared situation can be a boost to your morale and they may be able to give more practical advice on coping with your high blood pressure.
If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, but you’re unsure about your diagnosis, then check out our second opinion service. We have consultants and medical experts on hand to make sure you’ve received the right diagnosis, and we can help you move forward with your treatment.