No one wants to be diagnosed with high blood pressure, but learning you have it is the first step in making better choices to manage the condition. While your doctor should help identify the best plan for your specific circumstance, many Americans living with hypertension are able to successfully reduce their blood pressure through healthy lifestyle changes without necessarily needing to take medication.
Based on a number of studies, the following changes are proven to protect heart health and also carry other meaningful benefits for the body and mind:
1. Get moving.
Although it can momentarily cause an increase in blood pressure, exercise is critical for lowering your resting blood pressure in the longer term. Thirty minutes of physical activity is recommended each day, and there are plenty of ways to get it — walking, swimming, running, biking, playing your favorite sport, or taking a fun exercise class can all work wonders.
2. Get calm.
Lowering stress can make a big difference in blood pressure, your mood, and even your focus throughout the day. If it’s not possible to strip out some of your daily stressors, setting aside just ten minutes for meditation or deep breathing can help when you’re feeling frustrated. Yoga sessions and peaceful tunes are other great ways to create zen moments in your busy schedule.
3. Check your blood pressure at home.
Scientists at the University of Oxford found that people with hypertension who checked themselves at home — and had support from medical professionals outside the home — were able to reduce blood pressure by a significant amount in just 12 months compared to those who relied solely on appointments with their physicians.
4. Eat healthy and lose some weight.
Two of the most important factors affecting blood pressure are diet and weight. Being overweight puts additional strain on the heart — lower weight and lower blood pressure can go hand in hand. Reducing sodium and sugar intake, while eating more lean proteins and potassium-rich foods, is another good rule of thumb when making smart choices about what you eat.
5. Sleep tight.
Restful, restorative sleep can help to reduce strain on your heart by giving it a break each day. Not getting a full night’s sleep? Grab an eye mask and some ear plugs before bed. Even short 30–45 minute naps during another part of your day can contribute to lowering your blood pressure over time.
6. Cut caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
These bad habits can negatively impact many different aspects of our health, including blood pressure. If you can completely eliminate them from your daily life, your heart will thank you! Can’t go cold turkey and forego your morning coffee? Try swapping out for decaf — every little bit counts.
7. Get support.
Last but not least, don’t go it alone! If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, getting encouragement from friends, family, or even a support group outside of your existing network can help you stay on track. Making changes isn’t easy for everyone, and having others around you to remind you of this and keep you accountable can be just the push you need.