You could have high blood pressure and not know it. Since it has no symptoms, it’s called a “silent killer.”
If you’re one of the millions of adults who need to manage their blood pressure, you can start today with these nine tips.
1. Hold the french fries and other salty foods. Choose low-sodium and no-salt-added foods. Limit the amount of salt that you cook with. You shouldn’t eat more than a teaspoon of salt (which has 2,300 milligrams of sodium) per day if you’re healthy. Some people have an even smaller limit. For instance, people with heart disease should not get more than 1,500 milligrams per day. Ask your doctor what’s OK for you. Read labels on foods or menu items to see how much you get in a serving.
2. Limit alcohol. Small amounts can curb blood pressure. But drink too much, and your numbers go up. Men should limit themselves to two alcoholic drinks a day, while women should stick to just one a day. (One drink is a single serving of wine, beer, or a small amount of hard liquor.)
3. Get moving. It’s ideal to do heart-pumping aerobic exercise (like walking, jogging, or dancing) for 30 minutes a day. You can break that into three short bursts of just 10 minutes each. That’s enough to start to make a difference.
4. Don’t clean your plate. Cut calories to help yourself lose weight. That’s good for your blood pressure. When you eat out, remember that many restaurants serve way too much food. Before you dig in, put some of it in a to-go box. It’s best to eat smaller meals at home, where you control portions and ingredients.
5. Ditch tobacco. It’s not just about cigarettes. Any tobacco product can damage your blood vessels, making high blood pressure more likely. Work with your doctor to make a plan that can help you quit. Also look into support groups in your area.
6. Upgrade your stress skills. If you drink, smoke, or overeat when you’re under the gun, that can make your blood pressure go up. Try yoga, deep breathing, or meditation and exercise instead. It’s also healthy to say “no” to requests that could make your life too hectic.
7. Turn to friends and family. They’re on your side! Studies show that community and family support are a key part of any high blood pressure treatment plan. They can help you stick to your healthy eating and exercise goals. Positive, nurturing relationships curb stress, too.
8. Keep up with your doctor’s advice. Chances are, your doctor recommended a lot of the things on this list. If she also gave you medicine to control your blood pressure, take it as recommended. If the instructions are confusing, tell your doctor or pharmacist.
9. Ask your doctor if supplements would help. Supplements won’t replace diet, exercise, and the other tips, but some could help your blood pressure. These include calcium, potassium, coenzyme Q10, and omega-3 fatty acids (from fish oil or krill oil). Check with your doctor before you start taking any new supplement, so that he can make sure it won’t affect any other condition you have or affect your medicines.