A heart-healthy lifestyle is always important, even if you take medicines too. Some people can even take less medicine after making these changes.
What changes do you need to make?
- Lose extra weight. If you are overweight, losing as little as 10 lb (4.5 kg) may lower your blood pressure. It may also allow you to take less blood pressure medicine.
- Eat heart-healthy foods. Getting enough of the nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products helps lower blood pressure. Use the DASH eating plan as a guide. See the topic High Blood Pressure: Nutrition Tips.
- Get active. Regular physical activity can lower blood pressure in those who have high blood pressure. Try to do moderate activity at least 2½ hours a week. Or try to do vigorous activity at least 1¼ hours a week.
- Don't smoke. Nicotine temporarily increases blood pressure and heart rate with each use. Smoking also causes the arteries to tighten (constrict), which also increases blood pressure. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
- Drink less alcohol. Alcohol increases blood pressure. Drink it in moderation, if at all. That means no more than 2 drinks a day for men or 1 drink a day for women.
- Cut back on sodium. Eating less sodium can help prevent and control high blood pressure. Try to limit the amount of sodium you eat to less than 1,500 mg a day.
- Manage stress. Your blood pressure increases when you are under stress. Relaxation techniques, including progressive muscle relaxation and meditation, may help lower mild high blood pressure. For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
- Check your own blood pressure. A home blood pressure monitor makes it easy to keep track of your blood pressure. Seeing those small improvements can motivate you to keep going with your lifestyle changes.
How do you make lifestyle changes?
Making any kind of change in the way you live your daily life is like being on a path. The path leads to success. Here are the first steps on that path:
- Have your own reason for making a change. If you do it because someone else wants you to, you're less likely to have success. When you have high blood pressure, the reason for making lifestyle changes is clear: to lower your blood pressure and your risk for a heart attack and stroke. If you don't feel ready now, learn more about high blood pressure and the damage it can do. When you truly want to make changes, you're ready for the next step.
- Set goals. Include long-term goals as well as short-term goals that you can measure easily. Your doctor can help you figure out what your long-term goals should be for your blood pressure. Short-term goals are the small steps you take, week by week, to improve your health.
- Measure improvements to your health. Before you make lifestyle changes, ask your doctor to check your blood pressure. Then, as you start to make changes, have your blood pressure checked often, and keep track of the numbers. You can buy a home blood pressure monitor that is easy to use.
- Think about what might get in your way, and prepare for slip-ups. By thinking about these barriers now, you can plan ahead for how to deal with them if they happen. Use a personal action plan(What is a PDF document?) to write down your barriers and backup plans.
- Get support from your family, your doctor, and your friends. Tell them about your long-term and short-term goals and how they can help.
For help making lifestyle changes, see the topic Change a Habit by Setting Goals.
One Woman's Story:
"A big lesson I learned is that everything we do routinely is a habit. And habits can be changed. I'm living proof."-Izzy
One Man's Story:
"As soon as I mentioned [to my wife] that I needed help, she got out a pen and some paper and started writing out a walking schedule."-Arturo