How To Lower High Blood Pressure By Changing Your Lifestyle

Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in your arteries or blood vessels and it is measured in mm of mercury (mmHg). It is recorded as two figures e.g. 130/80 mmHg is fine while 160/100 is definitely high. The first number is the systolic pressure which is the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts. The second number is the diastolic pressure which is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between each heartbeat.

The cause of high blood pressure (hypertension) is not known in most cases. Pressure depends on how hard the heart pumps and how much resistance there is to blood flow in the arteries. Various factors can cause a slight narrowing of the arteries which increases the resistance to blood flow.

It is important for your health to keep your blood pressure under control. 140/90 is healthy for most people, but lower is recommended if you have a medical condition such as diabetes or kidney disease. Adapting your lifestyle is vital if you have been diagnosed with hypertension. If this is not enough to lower it sufficiently, medication can be prescribed to keep it under control.

The lifestyle treatments available are:

Losing excess weight if you are overweight. Pressure can fall by up to 2.5/1.5 mmHg for each excess kilogram that is lost.

Taking regular physical activity on five or more days of the week, for at least 30 minutes. For example, brisk walking, swimming, cycling, and dancing.

Eating a healthy diet provides benefits in different ways. One way is to lower blood pressure. For example, if you have a poor diet and change to a diet which is low-fat, low-salt, and high in fruit and vegetables, it can lower systolic blood pressure by up to 11 mmHg.

Limiting yourself to a low salt intake. Sodium is a major factor that can significantly raise your blood pressure, and it is virtually hidden in many of the foods we eat today, such as soups and frozen dinners. Limit your sodium intake to 1500 mg per day.

Restricting your number of caffeine drinks. Caffeine is thought to have a modest effect on blood pressure. It is advised that you restrict your coffee consumption and other caffeine-rich drinks to fewer than five cups per day.

Drinking alcohol in moderation. Cutting back on heavy drinking improves health in various ways including having a direct effect on blood pressure. For example, if you are drinking heavily, cutting back to the recommended limits can lower a high systolic blood pressure by up to 10 mmHg.

Tobacco causes hardening of the arteries and may raise your blood pressure. If you smoke, consult your doctor about a plan to quit.

Reducing stress – too much stress in your life is a major problem. Exercise sometimes help reduce stress as does relaxation and deep breathing techniques.

Lifestyle changes can certainly help to keep your hypertension under control, but they may not be enough. If it remains higher than your doctor thinks it should be, he or she may prescribe a medication to control it. Drug treatment to lower it is usually advised for all people who have a blood pressure that remains at 160/100 mmHg or above after carrying out relevant lifestyle changes. People with existing medical conditions: diabetes or an an existing cardiovascular disease will require drug treatment.

How long is medication to lower high blood pressure needed for? Your doctor can advise. In most cases it is needed for life. However, in some people whose blood pressure has been well controlled for three years or more, it may be possible to stop medication. This is especially the case for people who have made significant changes to lifestyle e.g. lost a lot of weight, or stopped drinking heavily.