There are some lifestyle changes with proven effects on blood pressure control, helping not only to reduce your levels but also to keep them within the appropriate ranges. Get to know them:
1. Limit salt intake
Per day, adults should ingest a maximum of 5 g of salt per day, equivalent to 1 level teaspoon, recommends the World Health Organization. This value includes not only added salt, but also salt that is already part of the food composition. On average, the Pakis consume more than twice as much (10.7 g) per day.
Some strategies that can help you eat less salt are:
- Reduce the consumption of foods with a high salt (sodium) content, such as sausages, canned foods and pre-prepared foods.
- Use alternatives to salt to season cooking, such as herbs, spices, garlic, onion, lemon, vinegar.
- Taste the food you are cooking and add salt as needed to avoid overdoing it.
Do you know that…
If, in Pak, each person ingested only 2 g less salt per day, the stroke rate would be 30-40% lower in the next five years. Translating this percentage into concrete numbers would mean, on average, less than 11 thousand cases of stroke per year.
Worldwide, excessive salt intake causes 2.3 million deaths a year from cardiovascular disease.
2. Adopt a healthy diet
Healthy eating is one of the pillars of a healthy life and can have a significant impact on blood pressure. Eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and, on the other hand, with a reduced consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol can lower blood pressure levels by up to 11 mm Hg in people whose levels are high. In addition to the aforementioned food groups, other foods that support the heart are legumes, nuts, seeds and oily fish.
3. Practice physical exercise
Physical exercise is a very important part of a healthy lifestyle and, therefore, should be part of your routine. Regular physical activity significantly lowers blood pressure values and prevents hypertension. However, it is important to keep in mind that overexertion should be avoided. For example, you should avoid very sudden physical exertion – as is the case with lifting weights – as these can lead to an increase in blood pressure levels during practice. On the other hand, you can opt for modalities that involve cyclical movements, such as dancing, running, walking, swimming, or aerobic activities such as cycling.
Regular physical activity – about 150 minutes a week or about 30 minutes most days of the week – can reduce blood pressure levels by about 5-8 mm Hg in people who suffer from high blood pressure.
There are also some strategies that can easily be implemented in the daily routine:
- Prefer the stairs to the elevator
- Park the car a little further away from the workplace
- Take longer routes when walking the dog
- Walk during lunch time
- Take a family walk along the beach
- Dedicate half an hour to gardening or house cleaning
Maintain regular physical exercise since, suspending the practice of physical exercise, blood pressure levels can rise again.
4. Avoid alcohol consumption
Drinking too much alcohol results in increased blood pressure values and reduces the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
Women should drink a maximum of 1-2 glasses of wine (100 ml) a day and men 2-3. People who have high blood pressure or who have a diagnosed heart condition may be recommended to consume less than this.
Ideally, the consumption of alcoholic beverages should be sporadic, in moderate amounts and reserved for special occasions, outside working hours and driving vehicles or using machines.
5. No smoking
Tobacco can have several harmful effects on our body, such as respiratory failure and lung cancer, and each cigarette can lead to an increase in blood pressure levels, especially right after smoking. Quitting smoking also helps to bring blood pressure values back to normal, in addition to significantly reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
6. Reduce stress levels
Stress , when chronic , can contribute to high blood pressure levels. Even the most punctual stress can contribute to an increase in blood pressure levels, particularly when it leads us to eat unhealthy food, drink alcohol or smoke.
The first step to reduce stress levels is to understand what factors can be at the origin: work, family, financial issues or even some illness. The second step is to find strategies that allow you to deal with these problems in the best possible way, which may include:
- Review expectations: try not to do too many things, planning your day and focusing on what is a priority, remembering that there are things that we cannot control.
- Focus on finding solutions to situations you can control. For example, if you have a problem at work, talk to your boss about it.
- Reserve some time to relax and dedicate yourself to activities that are a source of pleasure, like going for a walk, for example.
- Avoid situations that may be a source of stress : if, in your case, it is the traffic that causes you the most stress , try to leave the house earlier and avoid rush hour.
- Express gratitude towards others and demonstrate your feelings.
- Practice breathing exercises or listen to relaxing music.
7. Control weight
Weight influences blood pressure levels, and weight gain usually implies an increase in blood pressure values. Excess weight can also lead to breathing disorders while we sleep – sleep apnea – which also leads to increased blood pressure.
Weight loss, when it is excessive, is one of the most effective measures to control blood pressure levels. For some people, it may be the only measure to take to achieve a reduction in blood pressure levels. And even a small weight loss can already have a big benefit: for every kilo lost, blood pressure levels can drop by about 1 mm Hg.
8. Reduce caffeine intake
The effect of caffeine on blood pressure levels depends on the type of usual consumption. For example, in a person who rarely consumes caffeine, it can increase their blood pressure levels by 10 mm Hg. In people who drink coffee regularly, it may have little residual effect on blood pressure values. In the long term it is possible that caffeine consumption leads to increased blood pressure.
Especially in moments of greater stress and a noticeable increase in blood pressure, reduce the consumption of caffeine and other stimulants, such as theine present in tea.
Don’t forget to measure and record your blood pressure values frequently according to your doctor’s instructions and to make your routine appointments.