High Blood Pressure
Living With High Blood Pressure
Lifestyle changes are important to help control high blood pressure, especially if you have other risk factors for Reference coronary artery disease Opens New Window and Reference stroke Opens New Window.
Even if your doctor has prescribed medicine for you, you can still take many steps at home to lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk. Some people can even take less medicine after making these changes.
What changes do you need to make?
Make these lifestyle changes to help lower your blood pressure:
- Lose extra weight. If you are overweight, losing as little as 10 lb (4.5 kg) may lower your blood pressure. It may also allow you to take less blood pressure medicine. Losing weight may also lower your cholesterol.
- Eat healthy foods. Getting enough of the nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products helps lower blood pressure. Use the DASH eating plan as a guide. See the topic Reference Nutrition for High Blood Pressure.
- Get active. Regular physical activity can lower blood pressure in those who have high blood pressure.
- Don't smoke. Nicotine temporarily increases blood pressure and heart rate with each use. Smoking also causes the arteries to tighten (constrict), which also increases blood pressure. For more information, see the topic Reference Quitting Smoking.
- Drink less alcohol. Alcohol increases blood pressure. Drink it in moderation, if at all. That means no more than 2 Reference drinks Opens New Window a day for men or 1 drink a day for women.
- Cut back on salt. Reference Eating less salt can help prevent and control high blood pressure. Some people make a homemade Reference salt substitute.
- Manage stress. Your blood pressure increases when you are under stress. Relaxation techniques, including progressive muscle relaxation and meditation, may help lower mild high blood pressure. For more information, see the topic Reference Stress Management.
- Check your own blood pressure. A home blood pressure monitor makes it easy to keep track of your blood pressure. Seeing those small improvements can motivate you to keep going with your lifestyle changes.
How do you make lifestyle changes?
Making any kind of change in the way you live your daily life is like being on a path. The path leads to success. Here are the first steps on that path:
- Have your own reason for making a change. If you do it because someone else wants you to, you're less likely to have success. When you have high blood pressure, the reason for making lifestyle changes is clear: to lower your blood pressure. If you don't feel ready now, learn more about high blood pressure and the damage it can do. When you truly want to make changes, you're ready for the next step.
- Set goals. Include long-term goals as well as short-term goals that you can measure easily. Your doctor can help you figure out what your long-term goals should be for your blood pressure. Short-term goals are the small steps you take, week by week, to improve your health.
- Measure improvements to your health. Before you make lifestyle changes, ask your doctor to check your blood pressure. Then, as you start to make changes, have your blood pressure checked often, and keep track of the numbers. You can buy a home blood pressure monitor that is easy to use.
- Think about what might get in your way, and prepare for slip-ups. By thinking about these barriers now, you can plan ahead for how to deal with them if they happen. Use a personal action plan (What is a Reference PDF Opens New Window document?) to write down your barriers and backup plans.
- Get support from your family, your doctor, and your friends. Tell them about your long-term and short-term goals and how they can help.
For help making lifestyle changes, see the topic Reference Change A Habit By Setting Goals.
One Woman's Story:
"A big lesson I learned is that everything we do routinely is a habit. And habits can be changed. I'm living proof."—Izzy
One Man's Story:
"As soon as I mentioned [to my wife] that I needed help, she got out a pen and some paper and started writing out a walking schedule."—Arturo
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference November 12, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine|