You don't always need prescription medications to lower your blood pressure. By making these 10 lifestyle changes, you can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease.
1. Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline: Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Losing just 10 pounds can help reduce your blood pressure. In general, the more weight you lose, the lower your blood pressure. Losing weight also makes any blood pressure medications you're taking more effective. You and your doctor can determine your target weight and the best way to achieve it.
2. Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity â€” at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week â€” can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). And it doesn't take long to see a difference. If you haven't been active, increasing your exercise level can lower your blood pressure within just a few weeks.
3. Eat a healthy diet: Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
4. Reduce sodium in your diet: Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can reduce blood pressure by 2 to 8 mm Hg. The recommendations for reducing sodium are:
Limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less.
A lower sodium level â€” 1,500 mg a day or less â€” is appropriate for people 51 years of age or older, and individuals of any age who are African-American or who have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
5. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink: Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. In small amounts, it can potentially lower your blood pressure by 2 to 4 mm Hg. But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol â€” generally more than one drink a day for women and more than two a day for men. Also, if you don't normally drink alcohol, you shouldn't start drinking as a way to lower your blood pressure. There's more potential harm than benefit to drinking alcohol.
6. Avoid tobacco products and secondhand smoke: On top of all the other dangers of smoking, the nicotine in tobacco products can raise your blood pressure by 10 mm Hg or more for up to an hour after you smoke. Smoking throughout the day means your blood pressure may remain constantly high.
7. Cut back on caffeine: The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debatable. Drinking caffeinated beverages can temporarily cause a spike in your blood pressure, but it's unclear whether the effect is temporary or long lasting.
8. Reduce your stress: Stress or anxiety can temporarily increase blood pressure. Take some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as work, family, finances or illness. Once you know what's causing your stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress.
9. Monitor your blood pressure at home and make regular doctor's appointments: If you have high blood pressure, you may need to monitor your blood pressure at home. Learning to self-monitor your blood pressure with an upper arm monitor can help motivate you. Talk to your doctor about home monitoring before getting started.
10. Get support from family and friends: Supportive family and friends can help improve your health. They may encourage you to take care of yourself, drive you to the doctor's office or embark on an exercise program with you to keep your blood pressure low. Talk to your family and friends about the dangers of high blood pressure.