February is Heart Health Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. To maintain a healthy heart, it helps to track several key health metrics: blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight. Plus, there are many actions you can take to decrease your chances of developing high blood pressure.
In 2017, the guidelines were changed for what constitutes “high blood pressure”. According to the American Heart Association, healthy blood pressure is less than 120/80, and blood pressure of 130/80 is now considered stage 1 high blood pressure.
Here’s the latest guidelines from the American Heart Association:
Left untreated, high blood pressure puts you at risk of heart attack, stroke, or other illnesses. Many people don’t even realize they have high blood pressure. The best way to know your blood pressure is to go your annual physical and have it tested.
What if you are diagnosed with high blood pressure? The good news is that you may not need to go on medication, depending on how high it is and your doctor’s recommendation. Lifestyle and diet play a large role in controlling blood pressure. Making positive changes can help you take control of your health and potentially avoid taking medication. Always consult with your doctor on their recommendations.
Here are top suggestions on how to lower blood pressure:
Regular exercise strengthens your heart and makes it more efficient at pumping blood, which lowers the pressure in your arteries. 75 minutes of vigorous activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity has been proven to lower your blood pressure. If you are under a time constraint, you can always break up your workout into three 10-minute sessions or two 15-minute sessions to get the same benefit as one 30-minute session.
If you are overweight, losing weight can have a significant impact on your health. Losing just 5% of your body mass can result in a reduction of blood pressure. The EatSmart Precision Weight Tracker / BMI Digital Bathroom Scale makes it easy to for up to 4 users to track their weight as well as a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index). The Weight Tracker also gives consistent and accurate measurements for weights up to 400 lbs.
Get salt smart
Gradually reducing sodium intake can reduce blood pressure by about 5 to 6 mm Hg, if you have high blood pressure. Sodium intake should be 2,300 mg or less per day. Consuming 1,500 mg is considered ideal for most adults. Read labels as many processed foods, including pasta sauce, bread, and salsa, are high in added sodium.
Each cigarette you smoke elevates your blood pressure afterwards. To lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease, and improve your overall health, stop smoking.
Cut back on caffeine
While coffee and tea have antioxidants that provide health benefits, for some people, caffeine can actually raise blood pressure. To see if caffeine affects you adversely, check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a caffeinated beverage. If your blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 mm Hg, you may be sensitive to caffeine and want to consider switching to decaf. Also, try to stick with two cups of coffee max per day.
Stress can cause your heart to beat faster and your blood pressure to rise. Lower your stress levels with calming activities such as meditation, yoga, listening to your favorite music or deep breathing. Focusing on issues you can change can also help give you a sense of control and help keep you calm.
Studies show diets rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and low in saturated fat and cholesterol can actually help to lower high blood pressure. Minimize your intake of processed foods and stick with recommended serving sizes. Our Precision Pro Digital Kitchen Scale is a great tool for measuring serving sizes and ingredients, as well as calorie or carbohydrate counting. The scale includes a free EatSmart Calorie Factors book for easy calorie counting.
Reduce alcohol consumption
Drinking more than recommended daily amount of alcohol is harmful and can actually raise your blood pressure. With excessive consumption of alcohol, experiencing high blood pressure as a side effect may become a chronic problem. A serving of alcohol equals the following: 12 oz of beer, 4 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of liquor. Be mindful of your alcohol consumption and if you’re going to have a drink, try to stick to 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/ day for men.
Enjoy potassium rich foods
Potassium can help your body rid itself of excess sodium, which helps reduce blood pressure. Fresh fruits and vegetables naturally high in potassium include leafy greens, bananas, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, potatoes, melon, oranges, and avocados.
Curb sugar and refined carbs
Cutting back on sugar and refined carbohydrates, such breads, cookies, crackers and pastas, can help regulate blood pressure as well as help you lose weight. Studies have shown that lower carb diets are better at lowering blood pressure than low-fat diets.
Specifically drink herbal teas that contain hibiscus. The phytochemicals can help reduce systolic pressure by several points. Hibiscus should be one of the main ingredients for the tea to have a positive effect.
Nibble on chocolate
Studies show dark chocolate, 60 – 70% cocoa, can contribute to improving blood pressure. In people with elevated blood pressure, the flavonoids help dilate blood vessels thereby reducing pressure. Keep chocolate consumption to an ounce or two so you’ll get the benefits without it affecting your waistline.
Maintaining a healthy blood pressure can help prevent heart disease as well as minimize your risk for a stroke. Implementing some of these simple diet and lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on your health.
You may also enjoy reading 25 Easy Ways to Improve Heart Health.