High blood pressure is bad news, but there are ways to keep hypertension in check without breaking out the beta blockers.
Blood pressure (BP) medications can be real lifesavers, but they often come with a catch. According to WebMD, dizziness, rashes, and persistent coughs are just a few of the common side effects caused by BP-related drugs.
For some, the benefits of these medications outweigh the associated risks, but for many people, implementing simple lifestyle changes can be an equally effective way to go. Here are some of the Mayo Clinic’s top tips for staying heart-healthy without taking prescription medications:
1. Maintain a Healthy BMI
Research shows that your weight and blood pressure are directly related. But it’s not just the number on the scale that matters — it’s what that number actually represents. Maintaining a healthy body mass index is the most effective way to stave off hypertension, and fat building up around the hips and waist should be viewed as a red flag.
The medically ideal waist size varies by the individual, but as a general rule-of-thumb, a woman’s should not exceed 35 inches, while men should try to keep it under 40. Check out this tool from the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute to find your BMI.
Putting physical stress on an already over-strained heart might not sound like the best idea, but if done properly, it can greatly reduce BP readings over time. A fit body has a lower resting heart rate, which means less strain on the arteries.
Aim for 30 minutes of light cardio exercise a day — walking, cycling, and swimming are all great options. If you’re looking for something a little more social, team sports or getting competitive with friends using fitness trackers are a good choice as well.
3. Reduce Salt
Generally speaking, adults shouldn’t be ingesting more than 2,300 mg of salt a day, but when you have high BP, the acceptable limit drops substantially. If you’re an African-American, over 50 years old, or you already have a medical condition exacerbated by sodium (hypertension or diabetes, for example), you should be careful to keep your daily intake below 1,500 mg.
The quickest way to cut down on salt is to cook from scratch. Processed, prepackaged, and restaurant-served foods are usually covered in butter and salt for flavor. Although they taste great, they’ll send your sodium level skyrocketing.
Cooking your own food lets you know exactly what you’re putting into your body, so you can whip up your own delicious recipes and feel good about your sodium intake.
4. Avoid Caffeine
Caffeine is something of a mixed bag in that it affects everybody differently, so check with your doctor to see if your morning coffee might be having a negative impact on your BP.
Don’t forget that along with coffee, things like chocolate, soda, energy drinks, and many teas contain significant amounts of caffeine, not to mention sometimes hazardous amounts of sugar.
5. Avoid Stress
Stress is often an unavoidable part of our day-to-day lives, which makes it one of the hardest items on the list to tackle. In addition to the negative toll that stress itself can take on your BP, many people will turn to things like alcohol, smoking, and junk food for relief, which can make an already-problematic situation even worse.
Therapy, vacations, or even the occasional spa treatment might help you relax, but they don’t always get to the root of the problem. Stress is often self-inflicted — sometimes it’s just about cutting yourself a little slack.
Stay Ahead of the Problem
Whether you have a family history of high blood pressure or not, it’s a common affliction that’s best treated by preemptive action. Invest in an at-home monitor and check out some of our healthy lifestyle tips to keep your heart pumping at the right pace.
Better still, make sure you’re getting your annual physical, at which you’ll get your BP checked every time. And the high cost of healthcare no longer has to stand in the way. SingleCare provides members with access to top-quality doctors at an affordable rate without the cost of a monthly plan, so you can detect any issues early on and come away with a clean bill of health.
(Main image credit: Medisave UK/flickr)