Normal blood pressure is less than 120 millimeters of mercury over less than 80 millimeters of mercury. Maintaining a normal blood pressure reading is important for heart health, but lifestyle, food, and the environment can cause numbers to creep up to unhealthy levels. Here are a few ways to prevent high blood pressure and promote heart health.
Monitor your weight and waist
Being overweight increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. If you are overweight, losing as little as five pounds can help lower your reading. In addition to the number on the scale, waist circumference also plays a role in your risk level. Men who have a waist greater than 40 inches and women with a waist greater than 35 inches are at greater risk for high blood pressure.
Pay attention to more than sodium
Health experts recommend that sodium intake be limited 2,300 milligrams per day, but regulating blood pressure involves more than sodium. Potassium helps to lessen the effects of excess sodium and regulate blood pressure. Research also shows that getting adequate amounts of calcium and magnesium also helps to keep blood pressure at healthy levels.
Regular exercise helps keep blood pressure within normal ranges as you age. It is also a key component of losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight. If your blood pressure begins to increase, research shows that regular physical activity can decrease systolic blood pressure (the top number) by four to nine millimeters of mercury. This is similar to the effect of some blood pressure medications. Be patient and stay active. It takes one to three months for exercise to have an influence on blood pressure levels.
Create stress outlets
Too much stress can lead to high blood pressure, but it is still unclear how this happens. It could be that stress affects other factors that contribute to elevated levels like overeating high-sodium foods, weight gain, or lack of exercise. It may also be the effect of elevated stress hormones. The bottom line is that reducing stress promotes healthy blood pressure. Finding outlets that relieve your stress will help to reduce its impact on your health. Take breaks for relaxation exercises, get in regular workouts, use your vacation days, or try yoga and meditation.
Smoking and second-hand smoke cause damage to the blood vessels, which increases the risk for high blood pressure. Stay away from smoky environments, and if you smoke, stop.
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute - How Can High Blood Pressure Be Prevented
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - How to Prevent High Blood Pressure
- American Heart Association - Prevention and Treatment of High Blood Pressure
- MayoClinic - 10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication