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  • Writer's pictureChuck Johns

Lifestyle Modifications to Promote Healthy Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is a silent but potent bodily element that we often don't take seriously -- because, like most bodily functions, if it's working properly you don't really notice it. We often don't realize that our diet, routines, and stress levels have an impact on our blood pressure, nor that our blood pressure is actually a good indicator of our overall health. The heart pumps blood throughout the body at a consistent rate, in order to send oxygenated blood to the muscles and organs and keep them functioning well.

This steady rate reflects whether or not healthy processes are still ongoing in the body, and when blood pressure spikes, that's as big a red flag as they get.

High blood pressure, if observed over a lengthy period of time, may be an indicator of hypertension, as it is a symptom. Blood pressure tends to rise as our weight rises, and so those who are either overweight or getting there might see elevated blood pressure levels. Keeping our blood pressure to a manageable level is always desirable. High blood pressure is generally something that needs to be dealt with right away, and so people have found plenty of ways to maintain a good, healthy range for themselves. One popular way is through the use of medication, although many have opted to avoid this as it may come with certain other conditions or side effects that are not to their liking. Furthermore, healthy blood pressure levels may be maintained without it, anyway.

1. Weight loss.

As blood pressure rises the heavier we are, it makes sense that reducing weight would also lower our blood pressure levels. The general estimate is a drop of 1 mmHg per kilogram of lost weight, which is plenty of incentive to shed some weight. Overweight or obese people tend to have higher blood pressure, which is usually because the heart has to work harder to get blood coursing well through the body. A reduction in weight takes some of the stress off the heart. Furthermore, shedding waistline inches can be a great helps as well, as excessive weight around the waist can be a risk factor in terms of getting higher blood pressure.

2. Regular exercise.

Related to the above, giving the body a good 30 minutes a day for a few days of the week to be physically active can help reduce the risk of hypertension. Putting the body through its paces for about 150 minutes a week can work off some weight, as well as bring the body's general pacing to a level where the blood pressure can be kept at a stable level that keeps you out of hypertensive risk. You can shave off up to 8 mmHg off the blood pressure level this way. Consider aerobic exercises like jogging and swimming, or high-intensity interval training that alternates between bursts of intense activity and periods of lighter, easier activity.

Do note that dropping this routine will let the body fall back into its old rut and give the blood pressure levels a chance to rise again.

3. Watch your diet.

Also related to the above, being more judicious about what you eat can go a long way toward reducing your blood pressure levels and keeping them there. Certain foods contribute heavily to weight gain, while others contribute to raising blood pressure just by themselves. Smartly watching your diet and eating right can lower your blood pressure by about 11 mmHg, which would be quite a desirable outcome. For an overall balanced set of results, some sources suggest the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet: focusing on whole grains, fruits, low-fat dairy, and vegetables, while reducing intake of cholesterol and saturated fat.

Many also recommend foods that help lower blood pressure. Leafy greens like Swiss chard, arugula, kale, and romaine lettuce, for instance, provide plenty of potassium that helps accomplish that goal. Skim milk and yogurt are both excellent low-fat alternatives to full-cream milk, and the low-sugar varieties of yogurt are even better for you.

Reduce your sodium intake.

The ideal sodium intake level for adults is 1,500 mg a day, although 2,300 mg a day is still workable on average. Getting as close to that ideal level, or even below it, can help keep blood pressure at bay.

This is easier than you think, too -- simply checking food labels and picking lower-sodium choices, avoiding adding salt to dishes, and avoiding processed foods (which tend to be quite high in salt) can help accomplish that job. Some might encounter some taste resistance to this, which is normal -- easing into it over time will give your palate a chance to adjust.

4. Cut down on alcohol and cigarettes.

These vices do more than just damage the liver and lungs over time -- they also raise the blood pressure levels of your body. Keeping alcohol to moderation can be quite helpful, as keeping it to one drink a day (12oz of beer, 5oz wine, or 1.5oz of 80-proof) can help lower blood pressure by around 4 mmHg. Cigarettes, however, are best cut out of your life wholesale, as one stick raises your blood pressure for several minutes after you're done smoking it.



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