In the Unites States, approximately 72 million people have high blood pressure – about 1 in every 3 adults. It is one of the most prevalent diseases in our society. High blood pressure is a risk factor for developing a cardiovascular disease and kidney damage, sometime in the future, in both women and men.
If you have hypertension, over the years it may have a damaging effect on arteries (blood vessels) and put a strain on your heart. However, hypertension is just one of the few possible risk factors for developing a cardiovascular disease.
Tip 1 – you have high blood pressure if you have several blood pressure readings which are high and which are taken on different occasions when you are relaxed.
Tip 2 – you can have high blood pressure without noticing because this disease doesn’t make you feel bad or slow you down. You could have hypertension for years without knowing it. That’s why nurses and doctors check your blood pressure each office visit.
Here are seven easy lifestyle changes to prevent stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity:
#1 Go vegan
A vegan diet can help you deal with hypertension. Research indicates that the most protective factor against heart disease is dietary fiber, which is only found in plant foods. The most correlated factor with heart disease is bad cholesterol (LDL), which is only found in animal foods. The PCRM – Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine references a study suggesting that cutting dairy products, meat, and added fat from one’s diet reduces blood viscosity, bringing down hypertension.
Furthermore, you can fill yourself up on fruits and vegetables with a considerably lower caloric intake than you would if you were to fill up on animal products. This will lead to a healthy weight loss and a lower chance of cardiovascular diseases.
#2 Reduce alcohol and cigarettes
Drinking alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. Alcohol is also high in calories, which will make you gain weight and can further increase your blood pressure.
Smoking causes an immediate spike in blood pressure and can raise systolic blood pressure levels by as much as 4 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). The nicotine in tobacco products spurs the nervous system to release chemicals that can constrict blood vessels and contribute to hypertension. Also, avoid second-hand smoke. For example, each year in the U.S. alone, second-hand smoke causes 3,000 non-smoker deaths due to lung cancer and 55,000 non-smoker deaths due to the blood vessel and heart disease.
#3 Cut down on salt (sodium)
Salt raises your blood pressure. The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure. Aim to eat less than 6g of sodium a day, which is about a teaspoonful. Remember, this isn’t just about sodium shaken onto food, but it also means the sodium already added to all sorts of foods, from bread to breakfast cereal.
#4 Breathing exercises
Breathing exercises, also known as pranayama, help the body to regulate and control your blood pressure. The most accessible explanation would be that deep breathing exercise relaxes the blood pressure. But the real and scientific reason is that breathing exercises can actually break down the salt in your body, lowering the chances of pumping blood pressure. A study in 2005 showed that simply taking 6 deep breaths in a period of 30 seconds reduced systolic blood pressure by 3.4 to 3.9 units compared to just sitting quietly.
#5 Practice meditation
Meditation seems to play an important role in lowering blood pressure due to its ability to reduce stress. According to a research, keeping your mind free of excessive anxiety and stress, having a positive attitude towards life, and following ways to de-stress and relax is essential for curbing blood pressure and lowering your hypertension. Furthermore, this practice is an easy method of treatment and prevention of diabetes and other stress-related diseases.
Moreover, because the body is in such a relaxed state during meditation, even within minutes of starting a meditation, it requires less oxygen – up to 20% less, depending on the experience of the person meditating as well as the type of meditation.
#6 Physical exercise
Regular physical activity makes your heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. Additionally, physical exercise contributes to losing weight and lowering blood pressure, and it also stands on its own as a separate stroke reducer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week.
#7 Avoid caffeine
Caffeine can cause your blood pressure to rise, just by drinking a caffeinated beverage. If you frequently drink caffeine each day, you are actually artificially raising your blood pressure over a long period of time, which puts undue stress on your heart and can lead to other complications.
You can take these steps today, indifferent of whether or not you’re taking hypertension medication. In fact, by making these changes early in your life, you may be able to avoid needing medication.
If you are taking medication to lower your blood pressure, please do not stop suddenly. Talk to your doctor about a plan to control your blood pressure with lifestyle changes instead of chemical medication.