Daily habits can affect your blood pressure (BP). They may help you reach your BP goal and lower your chance of heart disease.
Some food can help you decrease your BP. Other things you eat can make your BP worse. Changes to your diet can make an impact alone or with other treatment.
Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains have a number of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Important ones for BP include magnesium, potassium, and fiber. They are important to overall health but may also directly affect BP and heart health. It is important to get plenty of fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
Saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol on the other hand can be bad for the heart. They can increase plaque build up on blood vessels. It can increase BP and the risk of other heart disease. It is important to decrease these types of fat in your diet. Instead choose heart healthy fats, like olive oil. These fats can increase good cholesterol and may decrease build up of plaque.
Your doctor may also talk to you about the DASH diet. This way of eating has been proven to lower BP.
Salt can make your body to hold onto fluids. Extra fluid in the body can increase BP. Most salt that we eat comes from processed foods that we eat, not table salt that we add on. Processed foods are breads, deli meats, condiments, or prepared meals. Check food labels to see how much salt is in your foods.
The American Heart Association goal is a salt intake under 1,500 milligrams (mg) a day.
Excess weight makes it harder for your heart to move blood around your body. This makes your BP go up. Losing as little as 10 pounds can help lower your BP. Food choices are an important part of weight loss. The same diet for a healthy heart can also help you lose weight. It also helps you keep the weight off. Work with a dietitian. They can help you plan meals and control your portions.
Every time you smoke, your BP goes up. Smoking narrows blood vessels and it also raises your heart rate. These are made worse when you have high blood pressure. When you stop smoking, the benefits are immediate. Quitting lowers the chances of further damage. There are many programs to help you quit. Talk to your doctor about which one may work best for you.
Other health problems may make your BP worse. Take any medicine your doctor has prescribed such as insulin for diabetes. Take medicine as advised by your doctor. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about your medicine or side effects.
Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take. This including over-the-counter remedies and herbal supplements. Some of these can interfere with BP medicines or make your BP higher.
Excessive use of alcohol can make your blood pressure higher. Alcohol also may react with certain medicines. Limit alcohol to no more than 2 drinks or less a day for men and 1 drink or less for women.
Exercise can help lower your BP. It can help the blood flow easier and make your heart stronger. Choose exercises you enjoy so they will become a part of your day. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day on most days of the week. If you have a hard time starting out, try walking for 10 minutes at a time a few times a day.
Note: Make sure to check with your doctor first. Some people with hypertension may already have other heart-related problems. These can raise your risk of a heart attack or death while exercising.
Stress doesn't cause high blood pressure. However, hormones released with stress can make blood pressure higher. Take time out to exercise and find other steps to help you relax.
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Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC Last Updated: 10/1/2018