By: Karen Yontz Center Staff
In November 2018, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology changed the guidelines on blood pressure. People who have a systolic blood pressure (the top number) of 120 mmHg or higher or a diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) of more than 80 mmHg are now said to have elevated blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure serves as a wake-up call for many people to make lifestyle changes so that they can lower their risk of heart disease in the future. So, what can you do to help lower your blood pressure? As it turns out, there are several easy things you can try.
- Stop smoking–OK, this one may not be so easy. But it is the #1 way to lower your blood pressure and your overall risk for heart disease. Over time, the chemicals in cigarettes can contribute to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) which causes high blood pressure. If you want to quit smoking but are having trouble making it happen, contact The Karen Yontz Center about our periodic smoking cessation classes.
- Lose weight if you are overweight–Fun fact: losing even 5 pounds can help lower your blood pressure. Extra weight causes your heart to work harder which can damage the blood vessels. That means any weight you lose helps reduce the strain on your heart.
- Get moving–Working exercise into your day doesn't necessarily mean logging hours at the gym or running for miles around your neighborhood. Think of ways you can introduce more movement into your day naturally. Park further away from the doors when you go shopping, take the stairs instead of the elevator, have an impromptu dance party in your kitchen. Whatever it takes to get you on your feet and get your heart pumping.
- Eat more potassium–Most people understand that salt contributes to high blood pressure. But what you may not know is that adding more potassium to your diet lessens the effects of salt in your body and eases tension in your blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure. (Note: diets rich in potassium may be harmful to those with kidney disease, so check with your doctor before adding it to your diet). The best part is that many delicious foods including bananas, sweet potatoes, yogurt, avocados and fish are rich in potassium.
- Reduce stress–Self-care ideas are everywhere you look these days. The key is finding an activity you enjoy that also relaxes you. A hot bath, reading a good book, watching a funny TV show, or meditating can all help you manage your stress levels.
- Put down the processed food–Reducing salt in your diet goes beyond hiding the salt shaker. Processed food (think deli meats, canned soup, bagged snacks like chips, etc.) is usually the way too much salt is sneaking into our bodies. Cutting way back on these types of food will lower the amount of salt in your bloodstream and help lower your blood pressure.
For many more ideas on how to lower your blood pressure or make other heart-healthy lifestyle changes, contact The Karen Yontz Center.