If you’re like me, you’re one of the estimated 70 million American adults who have hypertension – or high blood pressure. That works out to 29 percent or one in every three American adults.
While many of those millions are able to control their blood pressure, some with lifestyle changes alone, and some with the help of medication, I’m one of those who is struggling to lower their numbers. I thought that maybe writing about some key strategies for controlling blood pressure might help all of us whose numbers hover on the high end.
Most physicians start treatment by suggesting some adjustments to your routine before diving into the drugs. The Mayo Clinic has a great article about ten lifestyle changes that you can make to lower your blood pressure and, as a result, reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute confirms many of these strategies. Here are just a few of them.
Shed a few pounds. Excess weight can have a big effect on blood pressure, and losing as little as 10 pounds can help bring your numbers down. I’m definitely convicted on this one. I have 10 pounds and more to spare.
Exercise regularly. This is a no-brainer. It’s advice for preventing or controlling just about every disorder known to man. It could also help you achieve goal number one. Various “experts” have different ideas about how much you need to exercise to achieve a benefit, so just follow your doctor’s recommendation. I guess I need to dust off the stationary bike.
Eat a healthy diet. Your doctor might recommend a specific diet for you to follow, but there are a few general considerations. You want to eat a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. It might include foods like fish, poultry and nuts. You’re going to want to stay away from foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol and, especially, sodium. You should eat less red meat, sweets and, basically, anything that contains a lot of sugar or salt. I’m actually pretty good on this count.
This one’s a little trickier to do. Manage your stress. A lot of ongoing stress definitely raises your blood pressure. Just go to the doctor after a crazy day at home or work and see what your readings are. There are many good stress management techniques that work well. Santa Clara University has a list of ideas for reducing stress that might be a good place to start.3
Take your medication. Some people can control their blood pressure by making lifestyle changes such as these, but for others of us, we need the big guns – medication. There are many types of medicines doctors can prescribe for high blood pressure: diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, the list goes on. Likely, one of these medicines will be effective in controlling your blood pressure. It might take a few tries to find it, or you may need more than one. My doctor and I are still searching for the magic potion for me.
If you’re one of the 70 million and you’re having trouble keeping your numbers down, try a few of these suggestions. Get moving, drop a few pounds, cut out the salt and be sure to see your doctor routinely to keep an eye on your blood pressure. Help your doctor out and take readings regularly between visits so he or she can get a better overall perspective of your numbers over a period of time. Try to de-stress and if you’re on medication, take it regularly, exactly as prescribed.
I now know what I have to do while my doctor and I work to find an effective medication for my hypertension. What other suggestions do you have to offer?