If you have high blood pressure, you're not alone. It impacts more than 1 billion people worldwide, making it the most common preventable risk factor for heart disease.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, can damage your arteries and increases your risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure because the force of blood pushing against your artery walls is high. Your blood pressure depends on how much blood your heart is pumping, and how much resistance there is for blood flow in your arteries.
The narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. High blood pressure usually doesn't cause symptoms. The only way of knowing is by regularly checking your numbers, says Gundersen St. Elizabeth's pharmacist Amy Sapola.
"When you go to your primary care provider or the pharmacy, ask to have your blood pressure checked. I recommend sitting quietly for about five minutes before having your blood pressure taken, making sure your legs are not crossed and your feet are flat on the floor," Amy says. "Make sure not to talk while having your blood pressure taken. Try deepening your breath so that it expands your abdomen and relaxing."
With simple lifestyle changes, you can lower to blood pressure and take back your health. Amy recommends you:
- Eat less salt. Swap out processed foods for whole colorful foods found. Challenge yourself to add a variety of fruits and vegetables to each meal. Replace salt with fresh or dried herbs and consider simple changes like using cauliflower rice instead of white rice.
- Up your magnesium. Magnesium lowers blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels. Incorporate foods high in magnesium into your diet, like cooked spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, avocados, and salmon, and adding 120 to 360 mg of magnesium at bedtime. Magnesium also makes your current blood pressure medications work better.
- Move. If you don't love going to the gym, consider dancing to your favorite song, gardening, walking, hiking, or swimming.
- Kick the habit. Quitting smoking will reduce your blood pressure – and improve your health in countless other ways.
- Manage stress. Spending time outdoors reduces stress hormones, lowers blood pressure, and calms the nervous system. Unplug from electronics. Focus on breathing in the fresh air and noticing the beauty around you.
- Explore medication. Medications can help address high blood pressure, but you can't medicate or supplement your way out of a diet that's not supporting your health.
"No matter how many medications or supplements you're taking, if you're not addressing the root cause of the high blood pressure, it won't be cured," Amy says. "Effective diet and lifestyle modifications can lower blood pressure by at least as much as a single blood pressure medication. Small changes can make a big impact."
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