Take Control of Your Blood Pressure
By making lifestyle changes, people with high blood pressure may be able to bring their numbers down without medication, stopping a “silent killer” before it strikes, Albany Med experts say.
High blood pressure, which has no specific symptoms, impacts more than one in three Americans and is a leading cause of strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure and other serious illnesses. Chronic hypertension can have serious consequences, but modest lifestyle changes can help reduce an individual’s risk of danger while helping them minimize the need for medications or avoiding them altogether, said Ferdinand Venditti, M.D., vice dean for clinical affairs.
Here are just five steps patients can take to personally control high blood pressure:
- Lose weight. Being overweight puts a strain on the heart and blood vessels, and can result in high blood pressure. The good news is that there is a correlation between weight loss and lowering of blood pressure. Even a small weight loss can have a beneficial effect on blood pressure.
- Cut down on salt. Increased intake of salt can cause high blood pressure and damage arteries, heart and the kidneys. Reduce sodium intake to less than 1,500 milligrams (mg) per day if you have high blood pressure. Remember to read food labels because sodium is likely to be present in high amounts in prepared foods (particularly bread), making it easy to exceed the recommended limit.
- Exercise. Even a moderate increase in exercise can help improve blood pressure. Walking for just 30 minutes a day can help improve the heart’s function and lower blood pressure.
- Limit alcohol. If you drink, drink in moderation. While there is evidence that a small amount of alcohol can be heart-healthy, binge drinking — four or more drinks in a row — can greatly elevate blood pressure.
- Don’t smoke. Nicotine can damage the heart and constrict blood vessels increasing blood pressure.
Other methods to reduce blood pressure include sticking to a healthy diet (increased intake of fruits and vegetables) and doing deep breathing exercises.
It is important that all patients consult their primary care physician before making any major changes to address their high blood pressure.
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