High Blood Pressure Dealing Day-to-Day
If you have high blood pressure, there is a good chance your doctor will advise you to adopt certain lifestyle changes to help keep blood pressure from rising. Lifestyle modifications might include losing weight, improving diet and exercise habits, reducing salt intake and quitting smoking.
The following can help you deal with high blood pressure on a day-to-day basis:
Eat healthfully and lose weight
Obesity causes and aggravates several health problems, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. For many women, weight gain can only be remedied by eating a balanced diet and by getting more exercise in their daily routine.
Experts recommend a gradual and systematic program of weight loss with a typical goal of losing 10 percent of weight within a six-month period. For example, a woman weighing 170 pounds would strive to lose 17 pounds in the next six months. To lose a half pound a week, a person has to reduce daily intake by 250 calories. To lose a pound a week, reduce intake by 500 calories (and so on).
Be wary of supplements
Consult with your doctor before taking diet pills. Most of these drugs contain caffeinelike stimulants that can do serious harm to the cardiovascular system, such as elevating blood pressure and causing abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). Weight loss requires a commitment to a healthful diet and regular exercise.
Follow the DASH plan
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has released guidelines designed to help prevent and treat high blood pressure. The guidelines recommend that Americans follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) plan, which involves eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and nonfat dairy products. The NHLBI also recommends several types of lifestyle changes. These include losing excess weight, becoming physically active, limiting alcoholic beverages and following a heart-healthy diet, including cutting back on salt and other forms of sodium.
Cut back on salt
Eating too much salt can lead to water retention in the blood. Normally, the kidneys flush this excess water from the body. However, kidneys that are not functioning properly are unable to get rid of enough excess fluids, which leads to fluid retention. This increases the volume of blood being pumped through the blood vessels and can lead to high blood pressure.
If you already have high blood pressure, then your kidneys may slow down and excess salt and fluid may collect in the body, adding further to the blood pressure problem.
Exercise has been proven to both reduce high blood pressure as well as prevent heart disease. Because of its many benefits, exercise is strongly recommended by government health agencies and medical authorities, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Heart Association.
Even modest levels of exercise have been shown to have a dramatic ability to improve cardiovascular health among women. There is no complicated formula to follow and no single exercise program that is clearly better than all the others.
Exercise can be structured, as in a yoga class or regular workouts at a gym, or it can be unstructured, such as gardening, walking pets or dancing. Even small steps, such as taking the stairs instead of an elevator, can contribute to lower blood pressure and a healthier heart. The most important aspect of exercise is consistency rather than intensity.
You should never begin any sort of exercise program without a doctor's approval.
Quitting smoking is not easy, but hundreds of thousands of women find a way to do it every year. Once they have joined the 50 percent of adult smokers who have quit, they can enjoy lowered blood pressure and dramatically reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and several other health problems. Talk with your doctor about smoking-cessation strategies and aids, such as nicotine replacement therapy. Note that a first attempt at quitting may be unsuccessful. It often takes more than one try.
Beware of dangerous activities
People who have high blood pressure should limit their exposure to the following:
- Steam baths
- Steam rooms
- Heated whirlpools
- Hot tubs
- Very warmly heated swimming pools
These may raise their heart rates and blood pressure to dangerous levels. People with high blood pressure should not enjoy them for more than 10 minutes, after which they should sit down out of the heat for a few minutes before standing to minimize the risk of dizziness or passing out.
Be cautious with OTC medications
People with high blood pressure must also be careful about using certain over-the-counter (OTC) medications that contain vasoconstrictors, since these can elevate blood pressure. Such medications include:
- Cold, flu, sinus and cough medications (especially those containing decongestants)