Prolonged, untreated high blood pressure (hypertension) can cause heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and death. Yet many of us don’t know we have high blood pressure until it causes serious health problems!
In addition to having your blood pressure checked often, some lifestyle adjustments can help keep your blood pressure in the normal ranges.
Read on for 10 habits that can help protect your healthy heart and body!
Practical Solutions for Healthy Blood Pressure
In his book “Great Food, Great Medicine, A Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle Guide,” Dr. Miles Hassell, MD offers evidence-based food and lifestyle habits that can help us prevent heart disease and contributing factors like high blood pressure. These healthy habits can also help us lower cholesterol, lose weight, and feel better.
Try these 10 tips for heart health and an overall healthy life.
1. Follow the Mediterranean diet – While the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is specifically for lowering blood pressure, the Mediterranean diet is very similar, yet allows more healthy fats and purposeful sodium. Plus, the Mediterranean diet has better evidence for heart health and overall health and it’s easier for most people to maintain, says Dr. Hassell. Goals of the Mediterranean diet include increasing fiber and whole grains, eating raw nuts and seeds, and getting at least two or three servings of oily fish each week.
2. Eat whole vegetables and fruit with every meal and snack – Whole fruits and veggies are “your most effective lifestyle tools,” he says. Aim for nine servings daily! Celery and beets are especially helpful for supporting healthy blood pressure. Pass on the potatoes more often though because studies link them to higher blood pressure.
3. Cut sugar and refined carbs – Eating and drinking too much sugar causes high blood pressure, even if we’re not overweight. While you may know that soda, fruit juice and treats are laden with sugar, you may not realize sugar is also hiding in almost all processed foods. The max amount of sugar we should have a day is nine teaspoons (36 grams or 150 calories) for men and six teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) for women. One 12-ounce soda typically has 32 grams or eight teaspoons of sugar!
4. Lose some weight – If you’re overweight, dropping eight to 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure significantly, “often as much as a prescription drug or two,” says Dr. Hassell.
5. Get sweaty – Walking briskly for 30-45 minutes, five to seven days a week, may drop blood pressure up to 10 points, he says, especially if combined with some resistance like light weights. Muscle-building exercises (like lifting weights) are also great, but if you’ll only do one or the other, opt for brisk walks outside because we get additional health benefits from daylight and fresh air!
6. Eat more extra-virgin olive oil – In one study, eating three to four tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil helped patients with high blood pressure reduce dosage or get off medication.
7. Enjoy dark chocolate – Researchers find that eating flavanol-rich dark chocolate can help people with high blood pressure lower their numbers a few points. The ideal chocolate is over 85% cocoa, but you can start with chocolate over 70% cocoa and work up to darker chocolate, he says. Eating it with non-sweet nuts like almonds can make it taste sweeter.
8. Drink hibiscus tea – Drinking this wild tropical plant rich in organic acids, polyphenols, anthocyanins, and polysaccharides lowered blood pressure in people with mild to moderate hypertension in several studies. Dr. Hassell recommends drinking three cups of this sour tea daily.
9. Limit alcohol consumption – If you drink alcohol, more than a drink a day (two for men who are not overweight) is linked to high blood pressure. One drink is half a cup of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of spirit.
10. Sleep seven to nine hours a night – Our blood pressure naturally drops when we sleep normally, for seven to nine hours a night. When we don’t get enough uninterrupted sleep, our blood pressure stays up and may even increase. Multiple studies show that sleeping less than seven hours a night can cause and exacerbate hypertension, especially if we’re middle age. If you think you may have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor immediately. If you need to improve your sleep duration or quality, try these tips for better sleep!
If you are concerned about high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about other natural ways to stay healthy!