It's a new year and a perfect time to reassess your heart health and steps you need to be taking to promote a lower blood pressure. Here are ten steps you can take this month to get started on the right path.
1. Lose weight and/or maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight will lower your blood pressure and make any medication you take to treat high blood pressure more effective. One of the easiest ways to evaluate your weight is by calculating your body mass index (BMI). Here is a tool you can use to calculate your BMI - http://www.healthcentral.com/diet-exercise/index-1688-143.html.
2. Increase your physical activity
By being regularly active you will strengthen your heart. By strengthening your heart it will be able to pump blood more efficiently meaning less force against your artery walls. Physical activity can decrease systolic blood pressure 5 to 10 mm Hg. Regular physical activity will also help you maintain normal blood pressure levels.
3. Make heart healthy diet selections
The foods you eat have a direct impact on your success lowering blood pressure levels. A very effective diet plan is the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). This plan is based on a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low fat dairy products. By learning more about this diet plan and implementing the strategies you will promote a lower blood pressure.
4. Cut back on sodium
Sodium maintains fluid balance and plays a critical role in blood pressure control. Take steps to lower your sodium intake, such as removing the salt shaker from your table, reducing sodium during food preparation, and reading food labels.
5. Limit caffeine intake
Caffeine contacted in 24-36 ounces of coffee (2-3 cups) can increase systolic blood pressure (top number) 3-14 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) 4-13 mm Hg. This increase is usually short term; however, if you have high blood pressure it is best to limit your caffeine intake.
6. Manage stress
Research hasn't found a direct link between stress and elevated blood pressure; however, the behaviors stress elicits do impact blood pressure, such as overeating, lack of sleep, and alcohol consumption, do affect blood pressure.
7. Reduce your alcohol intake
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. More than two drinks daily for men and one for women can elevate blood pressure. One drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ½ ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.
8. Stop smoking
The nicotine in cigarettes narrows your blood vessels. This increases your hearts work load which raises blood pressure. Another complication is the carbon monoxide in cigarettes takes the place of some oxygen in your blood. This means the heart must work harder to circulate enough oxygen leading to elevated blood pressure. There are over 4800 chemicals in cigarettes; no level of smoking is "safe" for the health of your heart.
9. Seek support
Changing habits is not easy. Having a support system that will help you stick with your heart healthy changes can be critical to success. This could include your state's Quit Line to stop smoking or a weight loss support group to successfully shed extra pounds.
10. Consult your physician
You must work with your physician to ensure your treatment plan is appropriate for your situation. If you have been on blood pressure medication for awhile this is a great time to discuss your treatment plan and determine if any adjustments need to be made for optimal results.
Be sure to sign up for the free e-course 7 Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure provided by dietitian Lisa Nelson.