If you’re worried about high blood pressure, there are some things you can do beyond taking appropriate medication. The American Heart Association (AHA) points to somenot-so-difficult lifestyle changes to delay or lower high pressure and reduce the risk of illnesses associated with it, such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.
Here’s some of what the AHA recommends:
●Get regular exercise, at least 90 to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. It can be a mix of aerobic and resistance exercises. If it’s 30 minutes five days a week, that’s fine. You can split it up, though the AHA says the exercise “should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes.” Also recommended: muscle-strengthening activity at least twice a week.
●Avoid a diet that has a lot of salt in it by opting for other seasonings, such as curry power, garlic (not garlic salt), chives, cider vinegar and turmeric. And focus on heart-healthy foods, such as fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, nuts and nontropical vegetable oils. The DASH diet (the acronym stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”), limits salt and added sugars, and discourages red meat in favor of fish and chicken.
● Get stress under control. Stress hormones can make the heart beat faster and constrict blood vessels, which the AHA says raises blood pressure, even if only temporarily. The association suggests regular exercise, slowing down a bit, sitting quietly and deep breathing for 15 to 20 minutes a day and trying to “learn to accept things you can’t change. You don’t have to solve all of life’s problems.”
● Watch your weight. Losing even just five to 10 pounds if you’re overweight can improve blood pressure.
●Don’t drink too much, because excess alcohol can raise your blood pressure. As for the idea that red wine is good for the heart, the AHA says that is a myth.
●Quit smoking. Cigarettes are a “proven risk factor for heart attack and stroke,” though the AHA says the evidence of a specific connection to high blood pressure is “still being determined.”