The Impact of Life Style Changes on Lowering High Blood Pressure

By Jessica

The good news is there are numerous ways to lower your blood pressure by making small lifestyle changes. First and foremost, if your doctor has prescribed medication to control your blood pressure, it is important that you follow the regimen.  In addition to following your prescription, simple modifications to everyday routines such as: lowering salt intake, diet control, increasing exercise, losing weight, decreasing alcohol consumption, reducing stress levels, and smoking cessation will help reduce your blood pressure.  These suggestions may seem like huge life style changes, but have no fear, you can start off by working one or two into your daily routine and gradually add in more.  Plus, these are beneficial for more than just your blood pressure.
Fine tuning your diet
& exercise routine
Diet coupled with an increase in your weekly exercise routine will not only lower your blood pressure, but will also slim your waist line to get you back into your favorite clothes. Exercising 30-60minutes at least three days a week can help you shed pounds and reduce stress levels within weeks.  Your new exercise routine can be as simple as walking at a quick pace, jogging, or as active as jump rope, riding a bike, and light strength training.  Ways to modify your diet are: increasing the amount of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and low fat dairy products while lessening the amount of fatty foods.  This is also known as the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension).  In addition to the DASH diet, you should monitor the amount of salt you consume.  The best way to change your eating habits is to keep a journal of everything you eat through out the day, at what times you ate, and the portion sizes, how many times you added salt (preparing the meal and/or after it was cooked). Keeping a record for even a week will show you where you can make adjustment.  When grocery shopping, make a shopping list beforehand so you avoid buying junk food; also, read the packaging labels to buy the foods lower in sodium (<20mg).  
Cutting Back on
those bad habits
The next part of the diet is reducing the amount of alcohol and caffeine consumption.  For people who are heavy alcohol drinkers, gradually begin to limit the amount you drink in a week.  Also, for people that drink on occasion, avoid binge drinking (four or more drinks in a row).  As for caffeine, only drink one or two cups a day.  Lastly, kicking the use of tobacco such as: smoking, chewing, second hand smoke.  Tobacco products raise your blood pressure for up to an hour after you’ve stopped using, and if you are smoking or chewing throughout the day, then your blood pressure is continually elevated.
What do my numbers
mean and what is high?
When your doctor tells you what your blood pressure is, they are simply measuring the pressure inside your blood vessels as your heart pumps blood and then relaxed.  The reading of your blood pressure lets your doctor and you know if your heart is healthy.  The first number given to you is the systolic, when your heart pumps, and the second is the diastolic, when your heart is relaxed.  A good blood pressure has a systolic of <120 mm Hg and a diastolic <80mm Hg, a moderately high blood pressure has a systolic of 120-139 mm Hg and a diastolic of 80-89 mm Hg, and a high blood pressure is a systolic >140mm Hg and diastolic >90 mm Hg.  A continuously high blood pressure is can lead to severe health problems both in the near and distant future such as: cardiovascular disease, organ damage, heart attack, stroke, and/or kidney failure.
What impact can lifestyle
have on my blood
pressure numbers?
By taking on one or more of these suggested lifestyle changes, you can potentially lower your systolic blood pressure by 2- 30Hmmg.  Be aware that changing your lifestyle is a process and takes time, but it is a positive process that will ultimately decrease your likelihood of a stroke, heart failure or heart attack, or other organ failure in the immediate and long run.  Get support from family and friends to help you with your lifestyle changes, especially in the areas that will be the hardest to make changes. Have them take on some of the same changes you are making so you are not only making positive strides in your life, but also theirs.
Edited by Dr. Snipes,T