Did you know that more than one-third of all Americans suffer from high blood pressure? With February being American Heart Month, this time serves as a valuable reminder of the importance of maintaining a healthy blood pressure.
Hypertension affects nearly one-third of all Americans and directly increases your chances for having a heart attack or stroke. Many suffering from high blood pressure often have no idea they’re at risk because they don’t have any symptoms; that’s why it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly by your healthcare provider.
So what are some measures you can take to decrease your risk for high blood pressure? Below are 5 tips that can help to keep your blood pressure under control safely and effectively:
- Maintain A Healthy Weight.
As your body weight increases, your blood pressure tends to rise, putting you at greater risk for a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and congestive heart failure. Maintaining a healthy weight greatly reduces your chances of experiencing any of these issues (along with an endless list of other health problems).
- Exercise Regularly.
Work out regularly and build more physical activity into your day, even if you're not overweight. There's evidence that exercise alone slightly lowers blood pressure. It can also make weight loss easier, even if you don't reduce calories. Moreover, working out can set the tone for other healthy habits.
Small Steps: Try to pace while talking on the phone, walk instead of driving or play with your children instead of watching from the sidelines.
- Decrease Your Salt Intake.
The American Heart Association recommends that everyone consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day. Salt can increase blood pressure because it holds extra fluid in the body which can put unnecessary stress on the heart. Watch out for sodium amounts in prepared foods, and try some of these healthy swaps to reduce your sodium intake when cooking at home.
- Quit Smoking.
Smoking only increases blood pressure when you're actually smoking, but if you smoke 20 to 30 times a day, your blood pressure is elevated for a longer period of time because smoking quickly adds up to several hours. That's a meaningful change and can put you at increased risk for hypertension complications, such as heart disease and stroke.
For women who take birth-control pills, smoking is especially dangerous if their blood pressure is already slightly elevated. Taking birth-control pills at any age increases your blood pressure almost invariably by two or three points. But being on the pill, having blood pressure that's already slightly elevated and being a cigarette smoker is a dangerous triad that can lead to stroke in women as young as 20!
- Limit Alcohol Intake.
If you drink, do so in moderation. That means no more than two drinks daily if you're a man, one if you're a woman. In studies, moderate amounts of alcohol have been shown to be heart-healthy, but a person who chronically consumes three drinks a day will experience a rise in blood pressure. Keep in mind that one drink equals 12 ounces of beer, four or five ounces of wine or one 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof liquor, all of which supply about 0.5 ounces of alcohol.
Do you know your blood pressure facts? Take our quiz to find out!