About half of American adults have high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes. If you don’t have high blood pressure (or hypertension), it’s essential to do all you can to prevent it.
At TLC Medical Group, Anthony B. Lewis MD, FACC and his team help patients in Port St. Lucie, Florida, manage and even prevent hypertension with custom treatment plans. The good news: Most plans include lifestyle steps you can take right now to keep your blood pressure in check. Here are five to get you started.
1. Know your numbers
Research shows that people tend to be more successful when they set goals. When it comes to preventing hypertension, you can’t set meaningful goals unless you know your current blood pressure. Is it normal, or are you approaching an unhealthy level that needs immediate attention?
Measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), blood pressure measurements feature two numbers: The first is your systolic pressure, which is the pressure inside your arteries when your heart beats. The second is your diastolic pressure, or the pressure that’s exerted in between beats.
Most people should aim for a blood pressure of no more than 120/80 mmHg. Once you know how close you are to that goal, it will be easier to determine how aggressive you need to be in taking steps to prevent hypertension.
2. Know your risk factors
The next important step toward preventing high blood pressure is to know your risk factors. Like other chronic medical problems, hypertension is more common among people with specific risk factors. These include:
- Smoking habit
- Being overweight or obese
- Eating an unhealthy diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Older age
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Diabetes diagnosis
- Family history of hypertension
Not all of these risk factors are modifiable (within your control). Still, knowing your personal risk factors is another way you can set realistic and meaningful goals to help you reduce your risks of developing hypertension.
3. Watch the sodium
Sodium is an important mineral that helps your body manage the electrical signals that control muscle movements and nerve function (among other things). Most of us get sodium through salt. You need a small amount of sodium to stay healthy.
The problem is, most of us get way too much sodium in our diets — even if you don’t add any salt to your foods. The recommended daily amount of sodium for an average adult is about 2,300 mg.
The best ways to lower sodium are to read food labels and to avoid fast foods and prepackaged foods, both of which typically have high sodium content. Deli meats, canned foods, and pizza are all high in sodium, but so are lots of foods you might consider healthy. Again, reading labels is essential.
4. Be more active
Exercise isn’t just good for your heart — it’s good for the test of your cardiovascular system, too. Regular physical activity helps the cells lining your arteries produce more nitric oxide, a chemical that helps your arteries stay smooth and slick. It also helps your arteries move blood more efficiently.
Plus, by making your heart stronger, exercise helps your heart pump blood better, which reduces some of the stress on your artery walls. Exercise also naturally lowers your levels of “bad” cholesterol, another contributor to hypertension.
5. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight is one of the risk factors for high blood pressure, and the good news is, it’s a risk factor you can control. You don’t have to lose a lot of weight to reap big benefits, either: Shedding as little as 5-10 pounds can have a positive effect on your blood pressure.
Losing excess weight isn’t always easy. But when it comes to controlling your blood pressure, it’s vitally important. The good news: Being more active and watching your diet can help you lose weight naturally while also helping you keep hypertension at bay.
Learn more ways to prevent hypertension
High blood pressure usually causes no symptoms on its own — until something serious happens, like a heart attack or stroke. Having regular blood pressure screenings is essential for preventing high blood pressure and its serious complications.
To learn what else you can do to manage your blood pressure — and how Dr. Lewis can help — call 772-200-3840 or book an appointment online with TLC Medical Group today.