HOW LOW CAN YOU GO
Blood-pressure-lowering ideas from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
1. Follow a healthy eating plan: Consider the DASH plan. DASH-Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension-is based on study results that indicated elevated blood pressures were reduced by an eating plan that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods and is low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. The DASH eating plan includes whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts and has reduced amounts of fats, red meats, sweets, and sugared beverages. Click here for tips on making healthier meals.
2. Reduce sodium intake: A DASH-Sodium study showed that reducing dietary sodium lowered blood pressure for both those on the DASH eating plan and those with a typical American diet. The biggest blood pressure-lowering benefits were for those with daily sodium intake of 1,500 milligrams. Click here for tips on reducing sodium in your diet.
3. Maintain a healthy weight: Blood pressure rises as body weight increases. Losing even 10 pounds can lower blood pressure-and it has the greatest effect for those who are overweight and already have hypertension. Click here for ideas on how to eat healthier even when dining out.
4. Be physically active: This is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent or control high blood pressure. You can start by doing simple things like parking your car at the far end of the parking lot or taking the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator. Other moderate-level everyday activities you might try, according to NHLBI, include: washing and waxing your car for 45 to 60 minutes; walking stairs for 15 minutes; gardening or raking leaves for 30 to 45 minutes; or walking two miles in 30 minutes. Click here for tips on how to establish and maintain a long-term walking program.
5. Limit alcohol intake: Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure, as well as add calories when you might be trying to lose weight. If you drink alcoholic beverages, have only a moderate amount-one drink a day for women; two drinks a day for men.
6. Quit smoking: Smoking injures blood-vessel walls and speeds up the process of hardening of the arteries. A woman who smokes is two to six times more likely to suffer a heart attack than a non-smoking woman. Click here for tips on how to do it.