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Hypertension: Lifestyle Management

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This information was reviewed and approved by Andrew M. Freeman, MD, FACC, FACP (8/1/2019).

Hypertension usually requires lifelong management and observation. There are healthy habits that can help you reduce high blood pressure.

How to lower high blood pressure:

  • Maintain a healthy diet. A predominantly low-fat, plant-based, and whole, unprocessed food-based diet is key to lowering blood pressure. Try to limit the amount of salt that you eat and look for low-sodium options. Avoid foods high in fat and cholesterol, which can raise blood pressure. Avoid processed foods, which are usually the number one source of salt. Top sources include chicken (even before cooked or prepared), breads, lunch meats and pizzas— all without even being salted by the consumer.

  • Avoid alcoholic beverages. Alcohol can increase your blood pressure and fat levels in the blood. Alcohol also adds extra calories, which may lead to weight gain.

  • Exercise. Routine physical activity (ideally 30 minutes a day or more) can lower cholesterol, decrease high blood pressure and remove excess weight. Your doctor can help you develop a personal routine that suits your individual needs and interests.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight can help alleviate unnecessary stress on the heart. Excess weight makes the heart work harder than it should. It is often associated with other heart conditions often associated with hypertension.

  • Stop smoking. Cigarettes damage and constrict blood vessels. Avoid any secondhand smoke.

  • Reduce stress. The most common trigger for a heart attack is a strong emotional reaction to a stressful event, such as anger. Learning to remain calm and relax can help keep your heart healthy. Facing stressors and neutralizing them through mindfulness is critical. Remember, the medical word for high blood pressure is “hyper-tension,” or too much tension.

  • Get evaluated for sleep apnea. In some patients, sleep apnea can be a cause of high blood pressure.

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