Smoking makes you more likely to get high blood pressure and heart disease. Put quitting at the top of your to-do list to help lower your blood pressure. It could save your life.
The nicotine in cigarette smoke is a big part of the problem. It raises your blood pressure and heart rate, makes your arteries more narrow and hardens their walls, and also makes your blood more likely to clot. It stresses your heart and sets you up for a heart attack or stroke.
If you don't smoke but you spend time...
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.