What Can I Do To Control My Blood Pressure?
Patricia Zifferblatt | December 15, 2006

It’s estimated that about 65 million people in the U.S. have high blood pressure that can put them at an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, impaired eye-sight, and memory loss. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is often referred to as “the silent killer” because patients may not notice any symptoms until serious damage has already occurred.

People may be diagnosed as hypertensive if their blood pressure readings consistently go above 140/90. Many doctors are more aggressive and put their patients on specific diets, exercise programs, and/or medications if their blood pressure readings rise above 120/80.

Scientists do not completely understand the root causes of high blood pressure. However certain health risks such as being overweight, being inactive, aging, being a male, and eating a high-sodium diet are all known to trigger high blood pressure.

I’ve definitely got it--now what?
Explore Better Life’s website for information on diet, exercise, and other behavior changes to help maintain an acceptable blood pressure, and try these steps as well:
  • Learn more. In addition to a recommended diet as described elsewhere on our website, check out the newer and healthier offerings on restaurant menus and at the grocery store. Ask questions and try new ideas to brighten up your healthier lifestyle. Check in your community newspapers for healthy cooking classes offered at your local community college.

  • Exercise. Walk, run, swim, bike, hike, stretch, and try a yoga class. Yes, yoga. Slow, deep breathing is part of yoga, and that helps relax the body and lower blood pressure.

  • Relax. Take a class in progressive relaxation. When the body relaxes, blood pressure goes down. These classes are often offered at local hospitals, schools, or at the YMCA.

  • Supplement daily. In addition to your daily multivitamin-multimineral, try supplements that may help control blood pressure, especially calcium with magnesium and vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants such as garlic.

  • Eat better. Check out the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet. Similar to the Mediterranean diet, it increases the amount of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, and reduces saturated fats.

  • Skip the salt. Reduce sodium intake to no more than 2.4 grams per day or about a teaspoon of table salt.

  • De-stress. Get off the merry-go-round of a high-stress life and take time to re-group. What makes you forget your troubles? Music, movies, prayer, gardening, reading, or any other low-stress hobby are all good possibilities. Get away--even if it’s only across town or to the neighboring state. When on vacation, forget to take your computer and don’t call the office; leave emergency contact addresses and telephone numbers in case of a real emergency. Sleep lots and unwind, go on walks with your spouse and/or children, watch the sunrise and sunset, and literally smell the flowers!

  • Don’t smoke or drink to excess. Smoking is bad for your health and your family’s health in many ways, so if you smoke, find a way to quit. Use alcohol moderately, if at all--although a glass of red wine may help you relax and provides healthy phytonutrients.
Try some of these suggestions in addition to following your doctor’s orders, and see if a different approach can help you live a better life.
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