The good news is, this is something you can usually get under control easily! So your first option is to control your blood pressure readings on your own using diet, exercise, stress relief and other measures to knock the numbers down to a healthy range. If that doesn’t work, then your doctor may prescribe medication. If you need help paying for your medication, click here.
But let’s learn about things that are in your control when it comes to lifestyle changes. Don’t be afraid moving forward – 1 in 3 grown Americans (63 million) are diagnosed with hypertension, so you’re not alone.
Changing Your Diet to Control High Blood Pressure
It’s so hard to make dietary changes, even if it’s just because we want to fit into our high school jeans or look good for a reunion. But knowing you have to change – or possibly die too soon – lights a fire under you to succeed. There are five dietary elements we’re going to concentrate on. After diet, you’ll also want to implement a few other changes to your daily routine – and we’ll cover each one of those individually. Usually, people who adopt better lifestyle changes (including dietary revisions) see improvement in their numbers within 14 days of altering their routines. And you’ll see side benefits as well, such as weight loss and lower cholesterol levels for your LDL readings.
Limit Your Alcohol
When it comes to alcohol intake, the news can be a little confusing. One day they’re telling you that drinking can benefit your health, and the next they’re advising you to steer clear. But like most things – the key is simple moderation. For healthier blood pressure readings, stick to just 1 alcoholic drink per day for women and 2 for men. It’s that easy!
Blood pressure is affected by alcohol in short spikes and over a long period of time. If you drink 3 or more alcohol-laden drinks in one sitting, you’ll see a short spike. But long-term binge drinkers see a steady increase in their hypertension, too. People suffering from high blood pressure ideally will eliminate alcohol completely. But if you can’t come to terms with that, then at the very least drink it in moderation where you have one 12 ounce beer, one 5 ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5 ounce mixed drink (80-proof).
It’s not good to drink high caloric alcohol drinks if weight is an issue for you. It contributes to putting on pounds and then affects your blood pressure, too. And if your doctor has put you on medication for your blood pressure already, then it could hamper its ability to treat your numbers! What kind of change can you expect when you reduce or eliminate your alcohol intake? A couple of digits will be lowered (1-4), but much of that depends on what level of consumption you had as well as your age and other factors.
Use a Healthy Amount of Salt and Drink More Water
There are two numbers you need to know when it comes to salt intake – 2,300 and 1,500 mg/day. The first number is the highest recommended salt intake given by the National High Blood Pressure Education Program. The other number is what you should strive to achieve. What do you think your intake currently is? If you’re like most Americans, it’s probably anywhere between 3,300 and 4,200 mg per day – but it could even be higher than that because sodium is in most products we consume, and it’s hard to weed it out of your diet.
Your kidneys process the salt that you take in. And if you take in more than the kidneys can process, it causes fluid pressure to build up against your artery walls, spiking blood pressure. If this happens often enough over time, your blood vessel walls get thicker to handle the pressure being exerted against it, but that narrows your arteries, which eventually hurts your heart because it has to work even harder to try to push the blood flow through your body. It’s tough to start out reducing your salt intake.
Foods will initially taste as if they’re not salted enough. But time heals in the case of salt cravings – and eventually you’ll regain the taste of the original food flavors, where the addition of salt seems excessive to you, even in small amounts. Your body needs some salt, so don’t go to extremes and eliminate it completely. Reduction and moderation are key to improved blood pressure readings when it comes to sodium. Start reading labels to see what volume of sodium is included. Items like processed deli meats are packed with salt. But you’ll also find it in places you’d never expect to see salt – like an over the counter antacid!
If you think you might be somewhat of a salt addict, then start out by lowering your intake to the maximum level allowed and then work your way down to a more moderate intake over time. As you read previously, your kidneys are what help you manage the salt your body takes in through the foods that you eat.
In order to function properly, your kidneys need a lot of water throughout the day to operate healthy.Take a break from sodas and other drinks and start consuming more water throughout your day. Drink a glass before meals to help you feel fuller, and sip on it whenever you feel thirsty.
Yes, there’s a lot to learn about living with high blood pressure. Getting in control might take some time. It’s going to mean making some changes in your life, but you can start with small changes, and you don’t have to make them all at once. Try to stay positive and work with your doctor to find the right combination of treatments. And you don’t have to do it alone.
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