Lifestyle plays a major role in the management of all diseases—and making a few changes might mean you can reduce or even avoid taking medications with unpleasant side effects. Although you shouldn’t go off your meds without discussing with your doc, here are 10 things you can start doing today to regain control of your blood pressure.
WATCH YOUR WAISTLINE
Losing even just 10 pounds can lower blood pressure—and make sure to pay attention to the weight around your waist. Carrying too much weight here puts you at greater risk. In general, men should aim to keep their waist measurement lower than 40 inches, and women less than 35 inches.
It doesn’t take much to make a difference, and even 10 minutes of moderate activity (such as walking or light weight-lifting) can help. The key is daily consistency: Don’t save all your exercise for a Saturday afternoon because sudden bursts of activity could actually put you at risk for injuries.
EAT A HEALTHY DIET
Vegetables, fruits, moderate amounts of whole grains, and fermented dairy products (such as kefir, yogurt, and cheese) are the way to go. Keep a food diary to pinpoint your eating habits, stick to a shopping list when you hit the grocery store, and consider boosting your potassium intake, which can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure.
Read foods labels and aim for 2,300 mg (about 1 teaspoon) or less per day. Reducing the amount of processed foods in your diet will help immensely because sodium is often hidden in these products.
LIMIT ALCOHOL INTAKE
A glass of your favorite wine can be beneficial for your health, but those effects are lost if you drink the whole bottle. If you’re a heavy drinker, slowly decrease how much you drink over the course of a couple weeks.
Nicotine can raise blood pressure, among a multitude of other problems. It’s also important to avoid secondhand smoke, which can contribute to some of the same problems.
CONSIDER CUTTING BACK ON CAFFEINE
It’s debatable whether or not caffeine raises blood pressure—check for yourself within 30 minutes of drinking your morning cup of coffee (or other caffeinated beverage you normally have).
Figure out what makes you feel stressed—work, relationships, finances, illness, etc.—then take steps to reduce or eliminate those stressors.
MONITOR YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE AT HOME
Self-monitoring will help your health and help you feel in control. It’s also important to schedule regular visits with your primary doctor to check in and review your treatment.
Family and friends are great assets—they can encourage, support, and motivate you to be a healthier version of the one they love.