Blood pressure matters. Be under no illusions. It is a really important part of your overall health and wellbeing and it has links to so many other areas of your health that you really need to make sure you are aware of your blood pressure and the role it plays. This article will help – and it may just change your life.
Benefits of Lowering Blood Pressure
There are an enormous number of benefits to reducing your blood pressure. In fact, controlling your blood pressure is one of the most important elements of your overall health and wellbeing. Below, we look at many of the reasons for keeping your blood pressure under control.
Reduced risk of heart attack and stroke
When your blood pressure is too high, it can significantly increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. But when it’s lower, your risk of a heart attack or stroke drastically decreases. It’s as simple as that. In fact, studies have shown that reducing your blood pressure can reduce your risk of ischemic stroke by up to 32%. It can also reduce the risk of heart attack by up to 28%. These are huge differences and could, quite literally, be the difference between life and death.
Clearly, we all want to make sure we do not suffer a stroke or a heart attack, so it is essential that you hold these figures in mind. They could save your life!
One way to lower your blood pressure is to improve circulation of the blood. A natural way to do this is to make sure that you are getting regular physical activity. The benefits of exercise extend beyond improving circulation; exercise can also reduce stress levels, help maintain a healthy weight, and even help strengthen your heart.
But for some people, the issue comes with doing too much or too little and not knowing the right balance to strike. So how much exercise is enough?
That does quite notably depend on your current fitness level and personal health goals. Don’t start with an hour of intense exercise if you’re currently unfit, for example. Generally, however, it is wise to aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity most days of the week. This can be anything from walking or swimming to aerobics or running. Whatever activity you choose, make sure you enjoy it – that’s key to staying motivated and consistent!
Lower risk of kidney disease
It is not often recognised by most people, but high blood pressure has negative implications for the functioning of your kidneys. Lowering your blood pressure can significantly reduce your risk of developing kidney disease.
As with other areas of our wellbeing, healthy blood pressure requires us to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, managing stress levels, and avoiding smoking and drinking. Taking medication prescribed by your doctor can also help keep your blood pressure in check.
In the long run, taking the necessary steps to reduce your blood pressure can be beneficial for more than just your cardiovascular health; it can help protect your kidneys too. As there is less stress on them, they can function more effectively.
Of course, kidney health requires other elements of your health to be effective too, but blood pressure is certainly an important element of renal wellbeing.
Slowed progression of atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is not a well-known condition. In fact, most people will not have heard of it. This is a condition in which plaque builds up in your arteries, leading to a decrease in blood flow. The slowed progression can be achieved by making certain lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy diet. If you do not control and reduce the build up of this arterial plaque, it can have a negative effect on your blood pressure.
As well as making lifestyle changes, taking medications prescribed by your doctor may help to slow the progression of atherosclerosis and lower your blood pressure. Even if the doctor does offer medication to help you, it is important to keep in mind that medication should not replace a healthy lifestyle.
As with many health-related matters, regular visits to your healthcare provider for checkups and screenings may help you understand the risks you are facing of illness.
Reduced risk of dementia
Lowering your blood pressure can also significantly reduce your risk of developing dementia. Research has shown that hypertension and other metabolic diseases can lead to cognitive decline, and even dementia, later in life.
Studies have found that people with higher blood pressure measurements at midlife had a greater risk of developing dementia later in life. So if you want to reduce your chances of developing dementia, monitoring and managing your blood pressure is key.
Lifestyle Changes for Lowering Blood Pressure
Monitor your sodium intake
One of the key things to consider is monitoring your sodium intake. Eating too much salt can increase your risk of high blood pressure, so it’s important to keep an eye on how much sodium you are eating.
Many foods have higher sodium levels than people realize and can add up, so it’s smart to familiarize yourself with what foods are higher in sodium and limit your intake of those. Nowadays, many foods come with a red, amber or green information system about the sodium they contain. Be sure to check you are not eating too many foods with a red salt or sodium mark.
Spotting Salty Foods
To be clear, salt is not bad for your health, so you do not need to eliminate it from your diet. It can be a natural way to enhance flavor and make eating a pleasant part of your life. But as in all things, moderation is important. If you are overweight or have other health issues, then you may be wise to pay attention to your salt intake.
You should also be aware that much of the salt we consume is not always where we expect to find it in our eating habits. Some foods have reputations as salty – crisps, chips or french fries etc. But sometimes we find that many of our vegetables in a restaurant, for example, have been highly salted. We also find high sodium in some smoked fish, for example. So even though some foods can be very healthy, they may still be salty.
As ever, you need to be careful, keep track, and make intelligent, balanced decisions.
Increase potassium intake
Potassium is key because it plays a key role in keeping your blood pressure under control and in reducing the risk of hypertension. It helps to relieve tension in your blood vessels, meaning more oxygen and nutrients can be carried throughout your body.
So, how do you increase your potassium intake?
Firstly, add potassium-rich foods such as bananas, avocados, potatoes, and leafy green vegetables to your diet. If that’s not enough, you can also look into taking potassium supplements. But remember, you might find it wise to speak to your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or taking supplements.
Reduce your alcohol consumption
It has been shown time and time again that ‘cutting back on the booze’ can be one of the most effective steps in lowering blood pressure. This may not be advice you want to hear, but it is nonetheless very important information for you to bear in mind as you adapt your lifestyle to become healthier and reduce your blood pressure.
Not only does it reduce the amount of overall calories you’re consuming, it also takes away unhealthy binge-drinking habits.
But for those that find it hard to completely abstain from alcohol, the key is moderation. Have no more than one or two drinks a day, if you do choose to drink alcohol at all, and try to avoid drinking entirely on certain days of the week. Doing this helps keep your blood pressure in check and your body healthy.
Get regular exercise
Unequivocally, one of the most important things you can do if you’re looking to lower your blood pressure is to get regular exercise. We all know it’s good for us, but we sometimes do not realize quite how good it is for our blood pressure.
The truth is that exercise is an excellent way to counteract and combat high blood pressure. Regularly getting physical activity can have an extremely positive effect on your blood pressure and will almost certainly contribute to lowering it.
But what kind of exercise should you be doing?
Well, there are many different kinds of physical activities that can help lower your blood pressure, from walking and running, to swimming and cycling. All of these will get your heart rate up and help your cardiovascular system, ultimately helping reduce your blood pressure levels.
So why not give it a try? As well as meaning you are taking part in pleasurable activity, you may just find that regular exercise is the key to helping you keep your blood pressure low and healthy.
Understand what is your healthy weight
When it comes to lowering blood pressure, many people wonder how important it is to maintain a healthy weight.
The answer is very important indeed!
Weight is one of the most significant elements of our overall health. We should avoid overeating regularly and carrying excess weight, as this strains all the functions of our body and makes us less able to live a normal day.
Eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise can both be incredibly powerful tools in managing your weight. By doing so, you can reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and lower it if it is already too high.
Additionally, limiting your alcohol intake is an important part of achieving a healthy weight. Alcohol’s calories add up quickly and can cause weight gain, which can then lead to other health complications, such as high blood pressure. In fact, many people forget quite how calorically high alcohol can be. Even just two drinks in an evening can add five hundred calories or more.
In short, keeping a healthy weight is an essential component of managing your blood pressure.
So, in summary, make sure you’re eating healthily, exercising regularly, and limiting your alcohol consumption.
Ensure you understand and reduce your stress levels
It is widely known that when you’re under a lot of pressure, your blood pressure rises. The truth is that stress can have a big impact on your cardiovascular health. So how can you reduce the stress in your life to help lower your blood pressure?
Well, first of all, it’s important to identify the sources of stress in your life and take steps to eliminate them. This might mean saying no to certain commitments, or saying yes to taking more time for yourself.
It’s also important to make time for things that you enjoy, whether it’s taking a long walk, indulging in a hobby, or simply spending time with friends. When you make sure to give yourself breaks and relax, it can really help to reduce stress in your life, and, in turn, help keep your blood pressure down.
At a more serious level, some people’s lives are implicitly stressful and they feel they are under constant pressure, perhaps with work or family. For those people, it can be very important to make sure to monitor stress levels and keep a regular focus on blood pressure. You do not want your lifestyle to be the cause of serious illness or premature health problems associated with people far older than you might be.
Practice relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation
Yoga and meditative activities can be excellent ways of lowering your blood pressure. Practicing relaxation techniques can help reduce stress and anxiety levels, which can contribute to lowering your blood pressure.
Engaging in activities that help you control your breathing and that are about understanding your body can be a huge help to your wellbeing. Many people underestimate how influential breath-related exercises can be at lowering stress levels and at reducing blood pressure.
Yoga and meditation can be practiced by anyone, no matter their fitness level, and it doesn’t take a lot of time. The critical thing is to spend even a few minutes a day getting started. It will surprise you how pleasurable it is to have just a few minutes of focus on your breathing.
There are many different resources available with guidance on how to get started. So why not give it a shot? There is a good chance that it will contribute to reducing your blood pressure in a way that also helps your health more broadly.
This is more or less a must. At the very least, you must rescue your smoking habit. Smoking is directly linked to high blood pressure.
Quitting is obviously easier said than done. But it is an incredibly important way of reducing your blood pressure for good. This is because tobacco smoke increases your blood pressure almost immediately after inhalation. So if you’re serious about lowering it, quitting smoking is a step in the right direction.
Quitting smoking can of course also improve your overall health and reduce your risk of developing other conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Although it is not always easy to give up smoking, the good news is that there are a lot of resources available to help you quit. From smoking cessation clinics and online programs, to medications and nicotine replacement therapy, you have options suited to all types of smokers.
Even if you have not been smoking for many years, you will still feel much healthier once you cease to have nicotine as a part of your life.
Dietary Changes for Lowering Blood Pressure
Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables
One of the most significant ways to reduce your blood pressure lies in what you eat. Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet can make a huge difference.
This is because fruits and vegetables contain an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants; all of which are essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Additionally, they are rich in dietary fiber, which helps to reduce cholesterol, another risk factor for hypertension.
Research has consistently demonstrated that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help to lower blood pressure levels. If you increase their presence in your diet, you will see and feel many other benefits to your health too.
Choose whole grain products
One thing you should definitely consider, if you wish to lower your blood pressure, is switching to whole grain products. These are foods that contain the entire grain kernel, which includes the bran, germ, and endosperm. They contain important nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Plus, these nutrients can help reduce inflammation and protect your heart. In addition, eating more whole grain products may help control cholesterol levels and improve your blood sugar levels. They are all round good news for your body.
Eat lean proteins
If you wish to improve your diet in line with lowering your blood pressure, eating lean proteins is a great way to start. Lean proteins include poultry, fish, and eggs, as well as beans and legumes. They should all be eaten in moderation and without added fat, such as butter or oil, if you wish to maximize the benefits of their health-giving properties. These lean proteins also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce high blood pressure.
At the same time, avoiding heavy red meats, processed foods, and saturated fats is important for keeping your blood pressure in check. Eating a balanced diet of lean proteins, fresh vegetables and fruits, and whole grains is key.
Limit processed foods
Some adaptations to your diet are important. One of the easiest and most effective steps you can take is to limit processed foods from your diet. These are foods that have been altered in some way from their natural state to make them easier and faster to consume. Examples include prepackaged meals, snack foods, and sugary beverages. Easy to cook, they are actually often of very poor nutritional value.
They are bad for our health because they are often high in salt, added sugar, unhealthy fats and calories. It’s important to ask yourself: am I eating too much processed food? Limiting or avoiding these types of food and drinks can help keep your blood pressure in check and improve your overall well-being. Their effects on your blood pressure are almost always negative.
Include healthy fats
One of the best ways to help lower your blood pressure is to include healthy fats in your diet.
The truth is there are important and healthy forms of fat. Such fats can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet, and they can help to improve our well-being and overall health. Healthy fats include foods like olive oil and avocados. These foods contain essential fatty acids that help reduce bad cholesterol and help protect you from dangerous heart diseases. They are often called unsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.
Consuming healthy fats can also help to increase good cholesterol, which helps to reduce the risk of dangerous strokes. Additionally, these healthy fats can help reduce inflammation throughout the body, which is a leading cause of high blood pressure.
So, if you want to lower your blood pressure, don’t forget to include some healthy fats in your diet. Your heart will thank you for it.
Limit caffeine and artificial sweeteners
Have you ever considered limiting your intake of caffeine and artificial sweeteners to lower your blood pressure? If not, it is worth looking into this area of your diet. Caffeine and artificial sweeteners can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to spike, which isn’t ideal if you’re looking to lower it over time.
Try to stick to natural sweeteners, like honey and maple syrup, instead of artificial ones. Whenever possible, opt for decaffeinated drinks or switch to tea, as tea contains less caffeine than coffee. Additionally, try to limit your intake of energy drinks, fizzy drinks, and even chocolate, as they all contain caffeine.
Most people do not know that caffeine is often an ingredient in foods. We tend to think that the only caffeine we will find is in coffee, but it is a more widespread ingredient than we often realize.
Medications for Lowering Blood Pressure
One way to help lower your blood pressure is to take diuretics. A diuretic is a type of medicine that helps your body get rid of excess salt and water. They work by increasing the amount of urine your body makes, which can help reduce the amount of fluid in your blood vessels, therefore lowering your blood pressure. Diuretics are generally safe. However, it is important to talk to your doctor before taking any new medications.
Your doctor may need to adjust the dose or recommend a different medication, depending on your medical history.
ACE inhibitors are a type of medication that can help to lower your blood pressure. But to many people they are not well-known. So what are they exactly, and how do they work?
Well, ACE stands for angiotensin converting enzyme. These enzymes cause the blood vessels to narrow and raise blood pressure. ACE inhibitors block these enzymes, resulting in the blood vessels staying relaxed and the blood pressure staying at a healthy level. If you have high blood pressure then you may want to talk to your doctor about ACE inhibitors. They are usually well-tolerated, but there are some side effects that you need to be aware of, so do make sure to get medical advice before going down this route. For many people, this is a way of treating high blood pressure that they have not hitherto encountered. For some, it can be a very effective method.
Beta blockers are medication often prescribed to help lower blood pressure. Many will have heard of them.
Beta blockers work to slow down the heart rate and reduce the force of heart muscle contraction, allowing blood to flow through blood vessels more easily. This results in a decrease in blood pressure. Their method is simple and effective. Importantly, it isn’t just blood pressure that can benefit from beta blockers. They have also been linked to reducing the risk of stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular problems.
So, if you’re looking to lower your blood pressure, speaking with your doctor about beta blockers may be a smart move. After all, it could potentially save your life. Many have used them and they have a long track record of helping people.
Calcium channel blockers
This form of medication is perhaps not as well known. Calcium channel blockers are a type of medication that can, however, help lower your blood pressure.
Calcium channel blockers work by blocking the entrance of calcium into certain cells of the heart and other muscles. This in turn helps to reduce the force of the muscle’s contractions. What’s really interesting is that calcium channel blockers may also help to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke by improving blood flow to a particular area.
So, could calcium channel blockers be part of your blood pressure-lowering plan? They are certainly worth considering in consultation with your doctor. As with all medicines, it’s always wise to speak with your doctor before starting any treatments.
Alpha blockers are a type of medication used to lower blood pressure. They work by inhibiting adrenaline receptors, which decreases the resistance in our blood vessels and makes it easier for the heart to pump blood. This reduces our overall blood pressure, making it easier for us to maintain a healthy level.
Studies have also shown that these medications can help with other issues as well, such as reducing anxiety or muscle tension.
But like any medication alpha blockers have risks and side effects. It is therefore important to consult with your doctor before taking them, to ensure they are the right option for you.
When to Seek Medical Treatment
High blood pressure readings
It’s really important to take your readings seriously, but also to remember that everyone’s body is different. High blood pressure readings don’t always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it may be a one-time reading, or the result of a particularly stressful day or event.
That said, if your blood pressure remains consistently high, you should certainly speak to a doctor. They will be able to determine whether something else is going on and provide advice on how to lower it.
Other signs of cardiovascular disease
Given the interrelatedness of parts of our body and their functions, it is worthwhile being aware of the following signs that may be connected to blood pressure issues or wider cardiovascular problems.
- Chest pain, especially during physical activity
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain in arms, neck, or jaw
- Swelling in your legs or feet
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
If you’re experiencing any of these, it’s best to see your doctor or seek medical advice right away. Don’t wait until you have high blood pressure as an indicator. It’s better to get checked out now than risk developing a more serious condition later on.