Want to know exactly how much certain lifestyle changes can affect your blood pressure? Here, a look at the numbers.
The Change: Lose weight.
The Payoff: You’ll lower your systolic blood pressure (the first number in your blood pressure results) by 5 to 20 points for every 20 pounds you lose. In fact, if you're overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can help lower blood pressure. The weight loss goal is to get your body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9.
The Change: Follow...
The answer is yes. Your lifestyle does matter -- a lot.
Try DASH or TLC
Your doctor, or a dietitian, should have given you guidelines for your diet. They may have mentioned DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which is about lowering blood pressure, or TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes), which focuses on lowering your cholesterol levels.
On either plan, you'll:
Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products.
Eat less total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
Limit the amount of red meat, sweets, and sweetened beverages you eat.
Another cornerstone is cutting back on salt.
Lowering the amount of salt you eat can help lower the amount of fluid your body holds onto. This lowers your blood pressure and makes it easier for your heart to do its work. Getting no more than 1,500 milligrams per day (about a quarter-teaspoon of table salt) helps the most.
Try these tips:
Read labels. Look for "salt," "sodium," "sea salt," and "kosher salt."
Rinse salty canned food such as tuna before using it.
Substitute herbs and spices for sodium and salt when cooking.
Avoid instant or flavored side dishes, which usually have a lot of added sodium. Instead, try cooking plain rice, pasta, or grains without adding salt. You can add other flavorings or a bit of salt when you serve them.