Roughly half of American adults have high blood pressure, according to the CDC, and that means they’re all at risk of developing serious complications, like heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and even some types of dementia, among other problems.
If you have hypertension, taking steps to manage your blood pressure is critical. In this post, Anthony B. Lewis, MD, FACC, and the team at TLC Medical Group Inc. offer four simple steps to improve your blood pressure and overall health.
1. Be more active
Engaging in regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your blood pressure, yet data show many of us tend to lead relatively sedentary lives. Exercising regularly strengthens your heart muscle, helping it pump blood more efficiently so there’s less pressure inside your veins.
But that’s just one-way exercise benefits your blood pressure. Regular physical activity also lowers your cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is a waxy, sticky substance that builds up inside your artery walls. Over time, your arteries become stiffer and narrower, interfering with blood flow and increasing the pressure inside your vessels. This is a condition called atherosclerosis, and it’s a leading cause of heart disease.
The best part is that you don’t have to run a marathon or haunt your local gym to reap the benefits. Just a half-hour of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five days a week is all it takes to improve your heart health and keep your blood pressure in check.
2. Watch what you eat
Most of us know that adding a lot of salt (sodium) to our food is bad for blood pressure. But many don’t realize that table salt is just one source of sodium — it’s found in many foods we buy at the grocery store and in restaurants, too.
Breads, cereals, prepackaged foods, and even condiments can contain extremely unhealthy sodium levels. Reading labels is a smart way to keep track of the amount of sodium you’re consuming, and so is avoiding prepackaged or convenience foods.
While reading labels, take some time to evaluate the amount of fats and sugars in the foods you’re choosing, too. Unhealthy fats and excess sugars are bad for your cardiovascular health and your blood pressure, and they can also lead to weight gain, another risk factor for hypertension.
One simple way to make sure your diet is optimized for your heart (and your overall health) is to consider adopting the DASH diet, an eating plan developed specifically with the goal of keeping hypertension in check.
3. Learn to manage stress
When we’re “stressed out,” our bodies release stress hormones that in turn elevate our blood pressure. In brief moments of anxiety, that’s no big deal — but if we have chronic stress, our blood pressure can remain elevated for long periods, increasing our risks of heart problems and other health issues.
Practicing meditation, tai chi, or yoga can help, but so can simple activities like deep breathing that you can practice anywhere — even at work or during your commute. You can also set aside some time each day to engage in a relaxing activity that you enjoy, like reading or listening to music. Regular exercise also helps reduce stress.
4. Prioritize sleep
Following a healthy diet, exercising, and stress management might sound like work — but getting more sleep is something we can all get behind. Your blood pressure naturally decreases while you snooze. That’s great, but it also means your blood pressure stays elevated longer if you’re not getting enough sleep.
Plus, adequate sleep helps you manage stress more effectively so you’re less likely to make unhealthy eating choices — and more likely to stick with other healthy behaviors, like regular exercise. Sleep is also when your body releases hormones that help maintain your blood pressure in a healthy range.
Keeping track of your blood pressure is one of the smartest things you can do for your health at any age. To learn how we can help you manage your hypertension, call 772-200-3829 or request an appointment online with the team at TLC Medical Group in
Port St. Lucie, Florida, today.