If you have high blood pressure, you can help lower it by making small changes in how you live. You should work with your doctor to develop a plan for lowering your blood pressure. Part of the plan may also include taking medicine to lower your blood pressure. But your lifestyle changes will be equally important.
Path to improved health
How do tobacco products affect blood pressure?
The nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products causes your blood vessels to constrict and your heart to beat faster. This temporarily raises your blood pressure. If you quit smoking or using other tobacco products you can lower your blood pressure. Stopping tobacco significantly lowers your risk of heart disease and heart attack, as well.
What about losing weight and exercising?
If you’re overweight, losing weight usually helps lower blood pressure. Regular exercise is a good way to lose weight. It also seems to lower high blood pressure even if you don’t lose weight.
Is sodium really off limits?
Not everyone is affected by sodium, but sodium can increase blood pressure in some people. Most Americans who have a healthy blood pressure should limit the sodium in their diet to 2,300 mg per day. African Americans, older adults, and people who have high blood pressure should limit the sodium in their diet to 1,500 mg per day. Your doctor may tell you to limit your sodium even more.
To lower your sodium intake, don’t add salt to your food. Check food labels for sodium. Some foods, such as potato chips, obviously have a lot of sodium. But you may not realize how much sodium is in food like bread, canned vegetables, soups, and cheese. Also be aware that some medicines contain sodium.
Do I need to quit drinking alcohol?
In some people, alcohol causes blood pressure to rise quite a lot. In other people, it doesn’t. If you drink alcohol, limit it to no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 drinks per day for men. One drink is a can of beer, a glass of wine (4-5 oz.), or 1 shot (jigger) of liquor. If your blood pressure increases when you drink alcohol, it’s best to not drink any alcohol.
Does stress affect my blood pressure?
Stress may affect blood pressure. To help combat the effects of stress, try relaxation techniques or biofeedback. These things work best when used at least once a day.
Ask your family doctor for advice.
How can I know if changing my lifestyle is helping?
One of the best ways to know if what you are doing is working is to see for yourself. Consider buying a home blood pressure monitor. Use it to see whether what you are doing is lowering your blood pressure numbers. Ask your doctor to recommend a monitor.
Things to consider
Not lowering your blood pressure puts you at higher risk for certain diseases. These can include:
- heart attack
- heart failure
- kidney disease
Questions for your doctor
- What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?
- What is considered normal blood pressure?
- Can I lower my blood pressure through lifestyle changes alone?
- What are the side effects of blood pressure medicine?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.