Healthy lifestyle habits can help you control high blood pressure.
These habits include:
· Healthy eating
· Being physically active
· Maintaining a healthy weight
· Limiting alcohol intake
· Managing and coping with stress
To help make lifelong lifestyle changes, try making one healthy lifestyle change at a time and add another change when you feel that you have successfully adopted the earlier changes.
When you practice several healthy lifestyle habits, you are more likely to lower your blood pressure and maintain normal blood pressure readings.
To help treat high blood pressure, health care providers recommend that you limit sodium and salt intake, increase potassium, and eat foods that are heart healthy.
Limiting Sodium and Salt
A low-sodium diet can help you manage your blood pressure. You should try to limit the amount of sodium that you eat. This means choosing and preparing foods that are lower in salt and sodium.
Try to use low-sodium and “no added salt” foods and seasonings at the table or while cooking. Food labels tell you what you need to know about choosing foods that are lower in sodium.
Try to eat no more than 2,300 mg sodium a day. If you have high blood pressure, you may need to restrict your sodium intake even more.
Your health care provider may recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan if you have high blood pressure.
The DASH eating plan focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other foods that are heart healthy and low in fat, cholesterol, and salt.
The DASH eating plan is a good heart-healthy eating plan, even for those who don’t have high blood pressure. Read more about the DASH eating plan.
Your health care provider also may recommend heart-healthy eating, which should include:
· Whole grains
· Fruits, such as apples, bananas, oranges, pears, and prunes
· Vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and carrots
· Legumes, such as kidney beans, lentils, chick peas, black-eyed peas, and lima beans
· Fat-free or low-fat dairy products, such as skim milk
· Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and trout, about twice a week
When following a heart-healthy diet, you should avoid eating:
· A lot of red meat
· Palm and coconut oils
· Sugary foods and beverages
Being Physically Active
Routine physical activity can lower high blood pressure and reduce your risk for other health problems. Talk with your health care provider before you start a new exercise plan. Ask him or her how much and what kinds of physical activity are safe for you.
Everyone should try to participate in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at least 2 hours and 30 minutes per week, or vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise for 1 hour and 15 minutes per week.
Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, is any exercise in which your heart beats harder and you use more oxygen than usual.
The more active you are, the more you will benefit. Participate in aerobic exercise for at least 10 minutes at a time, spread throughout the week.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight can help you control high blood pressure and reduce your risk for other health problems. If you’re overweight or obese, try to lose weight.
A loss of just 3 to 5 percent can lower your risk for health problems. Greater amounts of weight loss can improve blood pressure readings, lower LDL cholesterol, and increase HDL cholesterol.
However, research shows that no matter your weight, it is important to control high blood pressure to maintain good health.
A useful measure of overweight and obesity is body mass index (BMI). BMI measures your weight in relation to your height. To figure out your BMI, check out NHLBI’s online BMI calculator or talk to your health care provider.
· Below 18.5 is a sign that you are underweight.
· Between 18.5 and 24.9 is in the healthy range.
· Between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.
· Of 30 or more is considered obese.
A general goal to aim for is a BMI below 25. Your health care provider can help you set an appropriate BMI goal.
Measuring waist circumference helps screen for possible health risks. If most of your fat is around your waist rather than at your hips, you’re at a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
This risk may be high with a waist size that is greater than 35 inches for women or greater than 40 inches for men.
To learn how to measure your waist, visit Assessing Your Weight and Health Risk. For more information about losing weight or maintaining your weight, go to Aim for a Healthy Weight.
Limiting Alcohol Intake
Limit alcohol intake. Too much alcohol will raise your blood pressure and triglyceride levels, a type of fat found in the blood. Alcohol also adds extra calories, which may cause weight gain.
Men should have no more than two drinks containing alcohol a day. Women should have no more than one drink containing alcohol a day. One drink is:
· 12 ounces of beer
· 5 ounces of wine
· 1½ ounces of liquor
Managing and Coping With Stress
Learning how to manage stress, relax, and cope with problems can improve your emotional and physical health and can lower high blood pressure. Stress management techniques include:
· Being physically active
· Listening to music or focusing on something calm or peaceful
· Performing yoga or tai chi