Chronic high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects millions of Americans. If you think you may have hypertension, it’s essential to incorporate ways of managing and lowering it into your life. When your blood pressure is high, it means your heart has to pump harder to move your blood. It can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, or kidney disease. But what is hypertension and how do you know if you have it?
The unit of measurement for blood pressure is millimeters of mercury, or mmHg, and is expressed as a fraction. A measurement of 120/80 mmHg, for example, is the upper range of healthy blood pressure. The first or top number of the fraction is the pressure of your blood in your arteries during a heartbeat. The second or bottom number is the pressure of your blood between beats when your heart is relaxed.
Elevated blood pressure, or prehypertension, is blood pressure in the 120-129/80 mmHg range. Stage One hypertension is 130-139/80-89 mmHg and Stage Two is 140+/90+ mmHg. A blood pressure measurement higher than 180/120 mmHg is an emergency hypertensive crisis and requires immediate medical care. If you are concerned about your blood pressure, or want to check it, book an appointment with your healthcare provider. If you’re already struggling with managing your blood pressure health, you can get continued help from an online doctor.
The rest of this article will explore alternative at-home methods of managing and even lowering your blood pressure. Thankfully, there are many ways you can naturally reduce your blood pressure, and they’re built right into your body. You can even start tonight.
Catch Some Z’s
One of the simplest ways you can work on managing and reducing your blood pressure is by getting better sleep. Less than six hours of sleep a night has been known to negatively affect the body in numerous ways. Your blood pressure is no exception.
There are many reasons why you might not be getting enough sleep. But one reason many people struggle with is that it’s difficult to keep their screen use in check. Perhaps you’re even reading this on your phone right now instead of getting the shut-eye you need.
The more terminally online the world becomes, the harder it is to maintain a regular sleep schedule. You see, the artificial light from your phone tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime. This interferes with your circadian rhythm, and thus it takes longer to fall asleep at night.
The easiest way to start getting a full eight hours of rest is to turn off your phone early. Give yourself a full hour before bed without screens at least, but the more the better. Keep your phone in another room at night if you can. If you rely on your phone to wake up, buy an alarm clock. You may be surprised how quickly your blood pressure and general health improve.
Watch Your Intake
Another area of life that affects your blood pressure is your diet, or a lack thereof. There are many nutrients that can affect your blood pressure level, including fat, calories, and salt. Salt in particular has notably adverse effects.
Too much sodium, a primary component of salt, can cause numerous health problems and harshly affects the kidneys in particular. Your body retains more water when it detects increased levels of sodium in order to wash out the sodium. This extra water puts more pressure on your blood vessel walls, increasing your blood pressure.
Thankfully, the FDA requires food companies to indicate the amount of each ingredient on food product labels. Limit your daily sodium intake to no more than 1,500mg a day or less if you want an aggressive reduction.
In the same vein, limiting the amount of alcohol you drink is paramount. The way alcohol primarily affects your blood pressure is by increasing certain hormones in your body. This, in turn, raises your blood pressure. Keeping a balanced diet will positively affect every area of your life, and your blood pressure is no exception.
Among the myriad benefits that physical exercise endows your body with, improved circulation is one of them. Essentially, regular physical exertion will make your heart stronger. As your heart becomes stronger, it can move more blood with less effort. So there is less force on your arteries and your blood pressure is consequently decreased.
The Mayo Clinic recommends the average person get at least two and a half hours of moderate aerobic activity each week. This could be an activity like going for a walk or even pushing a lawn mower. Additionally, they also recommend participating in vigorous aerobic activity for at least 75 minutes a week. Vigorous activity could be running, swimming laps, or playing a game of basketball.
General exercise will help your heart overall, but you can also perform exercises that will target your heart and make it stronger. An activity that increases the rate your heart beats or the rate you take breaths is considered aerobic. Some activities that fall under this category are team sports, bicycling, dancing, swimming, power walking, climbing stairs, and even gardening.
As you can see, even some everyday activities can put your body in a state of aerobic activity. However, a combination of aerobic and weight training may provide the most benefits. If you work at a desk all day, make sure to get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour. Your body will thank you.
High blood pressure is a medical condition that can affect anyone and can become quite serious. It’s something to be mindful of, especially if you are aging or are particularly sedentary. So make sure you’re getting good sleep, eating well, and moving around enough to need to catch your breath or break a sweat. And if all that doesn’t help, there are medicines that doctors can prescribe you to help. Be patient with yourself — health comes from lots of little steps over time.