If you have been told by your doctor that your blood pressure is elevated you are not alone.
According to the CDC nearly half of all adult Americans have a diagnosis of hypertension or are taking medication for high blood pressure. The good news is that apart from the medications we have to treat hypertension there are also actions you can take to help lower your blood pressure without medication or in addition to medical treatments.
Let’s start with a few definitions:
A normal adult blood pressure is <120/80.
The top number is the “systolic” (when your heart pumps out the blood) and the bottom number is the “diastolic” (when your heart is filling with blood).
Elevated blood pressure is systolic 120-129 and diastolic <80.
Stage I hypertension (high blood pressure) is systolic 130-139 or diastolic 80-89.
Stage 2 hypertension is systolic 140 or above or diastolic 90 or above.
Lowering blood pressure is important because longstanding unchecked hypertension can lead to heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and dementia.
The good news is all people with a diagnosis of elevated blood pressure or hypertension can help improve their blood pressure by following a few lifestyle measures.
Get regular exercise.
The current recommendation for adults is a total of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise (such as a brisk walk; think of the pace you would go to catch the elevator as it was closing) OR 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (equivalent to jogging/running) AND all adult should do two days of muscle strength training weekly. (https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm) Exercise programs can lower blood pressure by about 5 or more points.
Follow a healthful diet plan.
A diet low in in salt, cholesterol and saturated fats and high in whole grains, fruit and vegetables can help lower your blood pressure. The “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” (DASH) diet has been shown to lower blood pressure by about 10 points. (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/dash-eating-plan). Salt reduction has many health benefits including helping to lower blood pressure. Therefore, a maximum of 2 grams of salt daily is recommended for people with high blood pressure. It is also important to consume alcohol in moderation as overindulgence in alcohol can result in an elevation in blood pressure. The recommended amount of alcohol consumption for women daily is no more than one drink (12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor) or two for men.
By eating healthfully and getting regular exercise you may find that you lose a few pounds. For every loss of 2-3 pounds blood pressure will decrease by around 1 point.
Reduce your stress.
Chronic stress increases hormones in our bodies that lead to inflammation and elevations in blood pressure. Take action to minimize the stress in your life and to practice mindfulness activities to reduce your stress level. Check out this blog for more info with great tips on how to reduce your stress level: https://femalehealthcollective.com/can-stress-make-me-sick-and-what-can-i-do-about-it/
Talk to your doctor about your health goals and develop a plan to control your blood pressure and get your numbers back in the normal range.
Hello! My name is Carrie Ward and I am a board-certified Internal Medicine MD and an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. I am passionate about medicine and find fulfillment in the diversity of my work. I spend most of my time in the outpatient setting where I provide patient-focused comprehensive care to an adult population. Additionally, I enjoy mentoring future doctors from the medical school and spending time in the inpatient setting on the teaching service with the interns and residents. Finally, I am a mom of two-year-old twin boys. I have a true appreciation for the complexities of women’s health and how often it can take a back seat when life gets busy. I hope you might find the “Female Health Collective” a helpful resource to you; I am honored to be a part of it and hope you enjoy my contributions!