Simple Changes to Get High Blood Pressure Under Control

High blood pressure is a common ailment I see nearly every day. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure leads to a variety of serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure usually doesn’t have any symptoms, which is why it’s checked every time you come into a doctor’s office.

If you have high blood pressure, multiple lifestyle changes can improve your numbers and your overall health:

  • Quit smoking. People who smoke are more likely to develop hypertension. If you smoke and want to quit, talk to your medical provider. He or she can provide you with information and tools to help you kick the habit for good.
  • Lose weight. People who are overweight tend to have higher blood pressure. You can lose weight by following two other healthy habits that can also help lower your blood pressure – get 30 minutes daily of exercise and follow the DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and the diet includes lots of fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy products with minimal amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry, and nuts. Ask your doctor for more information. The diet will not only help lower your blood pressure, it can help you take off pounds, too.
  • Reduce the amount of sodium in your diet. If you’re following the DASH diet, that’s a good start. If you start reading labels, I think you’ll be surprised how much sodium or salt there is in just about everything. Aim for less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily.
  • Reduce stress. I know that’s easier said than done, but people with a lot of stress in their lives are at higher risk for high blood pressure and other health problems. If you are under constant stress, take a look at your life and try to identify ways to lessen it. Can you ask for help at work or home? Also, make sure you are taking time for activities you enjoy, which can help lower your stress levels.
  • Limit alcohol to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.

For many people, making dietary changes and adding exercise can go a long way to reducing your blood pressure, making medication unnecessary. But if they don’t work for you, your doctor may prescribe medication to help bring it down. All of these lifestyle changes will help lower your blood pressure and work great with medication. The key is to get your blood pressure under control so it doesn’t lead to serious health problems in the future.

Scott Schuldes is a certified family nurse practitioner and associate medical director at ThedaCare Physicians-Hilbert. He can be reached at scott.schuldes@thedacare.org.