You’re not alone. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is now one of the major medical conditions most common in the United States, afflicting nearly half of all Americans over the age of forty. And while you might know that being overweight puts you at higher risk for heart problems, heart attack and other cardiovascular conditions, you might not realize that there are ways to lower blood pressure – even if you’ve already been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
One of the easiest ways to lower blood pressure is to limit the amount of salt you take in. It’s true that salt has many important functions in our food sources; however, too much salt can also be very dangerous. In fact, too much salt is one of the main causes of excessive fluid retention, causing the much-talked about “salt water flush” – a condition where patients swell up in large amounts, due to their kidneys excreting too much salt from their body. And for those who take prescription pain medications, salt is also a trigger for the action of certain anti-inflammatory drugs.
If you want to reduce your hypertension, then you should also start eating a healthier diet. Most people don’t realize that a diet lacking in essential fatty acids can lead to a build-up of fat in the arteries. And a diet rich in sodium, which is found in table salt, can be just as harmful, especially in people who already have high blood pressure. So the key is to get your diet to be more balanced – lower sodium and fatty acid intake, and include more fruits, vegetables and nuts in your diet. The following are a few other ways to improve heart health.
Avoid foods that contain trans-fats, hydrogenated oils and cholesterol. These are the “triggers” of many diseases, including heart disease. Trans-fats are partially hydrogenated oils that become solid at room temperature, which gives them a longer shelf life. Also, cholesterol is a substance produced by the liver that is crucial to good health – but if this substance is present in large quantities in food, it can build up on artery walls and increase blood pressure. So avoid foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol, and consider making the switch to healthier alternative vegetable oils like olive oil and canola oil.
Another important way of managing high blood pressure is through managing physical activity. Research has shown that physical activity has been proven to relieve symptoms and prevent the development of heart disease. And according to a study conducted in 2021, those who exercise regularly were more likely to have stable blood pressures even after taking prescribed medications. The best way to make sure you’re getting regular physical activity is to get your family involved, schedule some time for each member of the family to engage in physical activity on a regular basis. If this doesn’t work, try enlisting the help of a workout partner or joining a gym or fitness center. The whole family should be working on a daily basis to keep high blood pressure at bay!
But the most important part of managing high blood pressure is to make lifestyle changes. This means getting on a daily routine of eating right and exercising, and it also means taking some action to change your lifestyle. Take control of your diet by eating smaller portions with more variety, and by replacing saturated fat with healthier fats like olive oil and fish oil. Go more natural with your medications, such as lowering your prescription dose of aspirin. Consider adding low-fat foods to your diet, such as fruits and vegetables.
If you’re thinking about adopting a lifestyle that will help to lower blood pressure, talk to your doctor about how to do so in the context of your individual circumstances. Some individuals are considered high risk for this condition, in which case drastic measures are usually taken to try to prevent any further increase in heart rate. For others, lifestyle changes might not be enough, and they would need to discuss their options with a trained nutritionist or other healthcare professional. Some people have found that taking medication in conjunction with these lifestyle changes has been most effective. Talk to your doctor to find out what options are available to you, and how they compare to the “traditional” medical approach to lowering blood pressure.
In the end, making dietary changes and doing some exercise can have very positive effects on your health, even if they are only temporary. It can be difficult to stick with a new diet and exercise regimen, but research shows that it can be one of the safest and most effective ways to lower blood pressure. Consider using a blend of these methods to achieve your goals. In the long run, it’s almost certain to be worth the effort.