If you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension, you’re not alone: About one in two adults (48%) in the United States — or nearly 120 million people — either has uncontrolled high blood pressure (BP) or is currently taking medication to manage the condition. Millions more have elevated BP levels and don’t even know it.

Still, it’s not all bad news. Hypertension is readily preventable and highly treatable, and there’s a lot you can do to evade or escape this so-called silent killer and protect your health.

At Woodlands Vein Center & Preventative Medicine Clinic, board-certified nurse practitioner and preventive cardiac care specialist Eliza Codd, ARNP, FNP-BC, AG-ACNP-BC, CLS, knows that when it comes to attaining healthier BP numbers, your lifestyle is just as important as any medication she might prescribe.

Let’s explore four key habits that can help you lower your BP, keep it under control, and protect your long-term cardiovascular health.

1. Eat a well-balanced diet

Just as unhealthy eating patterns can raise your BP, making the switch to a heart-healthy diet can bring high BP numbers down and keep them in a healthy range. In fact, establishing healthier eating patterns is one of the most important steps you can take to control your BP and reduce your heart attack and stroke risk.

Adopting the DASH diet — or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating pattern — is one of themost effective ways to bring down your BP numbers.

Luckily, it’s not complicated: All heart-healthy diets emphasize fiber-rich vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds along with lean proteins and unsaturated fats; at the same time, they carefully limit sodium, added sugars, and saturated fats — and eliminate trans fats.

2. Move your body every day

A sedentary lifestyle can readily foster hypertension and heart disease, while an active lifestyle promotes well-regulated BP levels and a healthy heart. General guidelines suggest that all adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise each week, or at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. That’s a great place to start, but we think aiming for 30-60 minutes of exercise most days is even better.

Remember: Any activity is better than nothing at all, even if that means getting started by simply increasing your daily movements — like making it a habit to get on your feet and walk around for five minutes after every 30-minute block of sitting.

3. Stop stressing all the time

Whether it’s an unexpected traffic jam, a teenager’s attitude, or a lengthy to-do list that tests your patience, you’re probably familiar with the physical effects of stress: Your muscles tense, your jaw clenches, your breathing gets shallower, your heart rate rises, and your blood feels as though it’s racing through your body.

That’s because it is. High-stress situations can spike your BP levels, and when these spikes occur regularly, they can trigger systemic, low-grade inflammation that sets the stage for hypertension.

Effective stress-easing strategies include getting enough sleep, engaging in regular physical activity, simplifying your schedule, making time for social interaction, personal interests, or self-care, and checking in with a therapist or counselor.

4. Watch your alcohol intake

Heavy alcohol consumption is a notorious catalyst for high BP levels, but the negative health effects don’t stop there: The more alcohol you drink, the more likely you are to develop high blood sugar levels (type 2 diabetes) as well as high cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

This trifecta of negative cardiovascular effects undermines your health and significantly boosts your risk of heart disease and stroke. When you’re trying to lower your BP levels, cutting back on alcohol as much as possible is ideal.

Does this mean you shouldn’t drink any alcohol? Not necessarily. Like everything that’s bad for your health in larger quantities (i.e., sodium, sugar), the key to avoiding the harmful effects of alcohol is moderation.

More healthy lifestyle habits

These four lifestyle changes can give you an excellent foundation for healthier BP numbers, but there are other important steps toward improved BP control, including:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Quitting smoking
  • Having regular physical exams
  • Taking BP medications as prescribed

It’s also vital to manage any existing chronic health conditions that tend to cause worsening BP levels, like sleep apnea or diabetes.

Ready to regain control of your BP numbers and your cardiovascular health? We’re here to help. Call or click online to schedule a visit at Woodlands Vein Center & Preventative Medicine Clinic in Shenandoah, Texas, today.

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