Can lifestyle changes reverse high blood pressure?

High blood pressure can have severe health effects- from heart failures and heart attacks to strokes, kidney failure and brain damage, high blood pressure has far-reaching repercussions. Treatment involves medication to protect these vital organs; however certain lifestyle changes to control high blood pressure can go a long way in helping you manage your levels. In addition to lowering your actual blood pressure levels, lifestyle changes to combat high blood pressure also help to increase the effectiveness of high blood pressure drugs. In fact, they may even help you keep off drugs or reduce your need for medication.

Lifestyle Changes to Treat High Blood Pressure

Losing weight

The more you weigh, the more blood you need to supply in order to be able to meet your body’s oxygen requirements. As the volume of blood circulation through your blood increases, so does the pressure on the walls of your blood vessels. Hence, one of the primary lifestyle changes to lower high blood pressure should be weight reduction. Losing just about 10 pounds can help you lower your blood pressure levels. Consult your doctor to know your target weight and work towards it. In addition, watch out for a bulging waistline. In general, it is considered that men with a waist measurement greater than 40 inches and women with a waist measurement of more than 35 inches are at higher risk of high blood pressure.

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Quitting smoking

Not only does smoking or chewing tobacco raise your blood pressure levels temporarily, it also damages the lining of your artery walls, causing them to narrow and contribute to high blood pressure. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, quit smoking as soon as possible. There are several ways you can disengage yourself- try an over-the-counter medication like nicotine patches or quit smoking kits, divert your attention towards a different activity (a hobby or meditation) etc. Exercise also boosts your quit smoking efforts.

Limiting alcohol

In small amounts, alcohol can help to lower your blood pressure levels, but the moment you cross the mark, it can be disastrous. In general, women and men over 65 are advised no more than one drink a day. For men below 65 years of age, 2 drinks a day is considered moderate- anything in excess of this can be potentially harmful. If you don’t drink- don’t start just to lower your levels- the risks definitely outweigh the benefits. If you find giving it up altogether difficult, then taper off your intake gradually (maintain a tracking diary- it may sound ridiculous, but will help you understand your actual drinking levels!) And do not binge drink- having three or four drinks at a time can lead to sudden spikes in blood pressure levels that is very harmful.

High blood pressure diet

Adopt the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet plan- it constitutes a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, and cuts down your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol. It’s hard to make a change suddenly- don’t be too harsh on yourself, allow yourself some non-DASH food once in a while- but by and large, make the DASH diet a routine. A high level of salt in food is dangerous to people with high blood pressure. Sodium leads to fluid retention and complicated high blood pressure problems. Potassium helps to lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure- try to get foods that supply potassium naturally. Avoid picking junk food on shopping trips and if possible, maintain a tracking diary diligently.

Reducing the amount of sodium in your diet

The recommended sodium level is no more than 2300 milligrams a day. For people aged above 50 and for those who are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure- like African Americans or people with diabetes or chronic kidney disease, 1500 mg or less a day is advisable. Study food labels carefully when you buy foods and beverages and wherever possible, switch to low-sodium alternatives. Limit your intake of processed foods and monitor how much salt you use in your foods.

High Blood Pressure Exercise

If you have been physically inactive for long, a week of regular exercise can yield amazing results. Regular exercise like light aerobics, walking and light strength training- for half an hour to an hour on most days of the week is of great help. However, refrain from cramming all your exercise into a day or two. That can backfire badly.

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