High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects 1 in 3 adults and is the most common cardiovascular disease.
Blood pressure actually refers to the force of your blood on your artery walls as it makes its way through your body. Just like too much air pressure damages a tire, if your blood pressure is too high, it can threaten the health of your arteries and lead to heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.
High blood pressure carries no symptoms. In fact, hypertension is known as the “silent killer” because it shows no early signs. The only way to tell if you have high blood pressure is to routinely have your blood pressure checked.
Here are ten steps you can take today to lower your blood pressure:
- Be informed! If you haven’t had your blood pressure checked recently, make an appointment with your doctor.
HINT: Aim for a blood pressure reading of below 120/80 mmHg
- Avoid the salt shaker. Herbs, salt-free spices, lemon juice, vinegar and salt substitutes can all be used in place of table salt to flavor your food without adding sodium.
HINT: Salt substitutes labeled “sodium-free” most likely contain potassium chloride and contain no sodium. These substitutes may not be for everyone and can actually be dangerous for some people. If you have kidney problems or are on medication for your heart, kidneys or liver, it’s best to check with your doctor before using salt substitutes with potassium.
- Read it before you eat it! Read food labels for sodium and choose the lower sodium option of soups, snack foods and other processed foods.
HINT: 140 mg of sodium or less per serving is considered “low sodium”
- Eat your fruits and veggies! They’re loaded with potassium, magnesium and fiber, which helps “blunt” the effects of sodium on your blood pressure.
HINT: Bananas, broccoli, pinto beans and potatoes are all considered good sources of potassium!
- Choose fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned.
HINT: Frozen veggies are just as healthy as fresh. Just make sure they’re not covered in cheese sauce!
- Rinse. If you eat canned foods like beans, vegetables, or olives, rinse them under cold water in a strainer to remove some of the sodium.
HINT: Rinsing removes up to 30% of the sodium.
- Get fresh. Eat less processed meats like deli meats, hot dogs and sausage and choose more fresh meats like chicken and fish.
HINT: At Subway, aim for the 6″ Oven Roasted Chicken sub instead of the Cold Cut Combo and save 420 mg of sodium.
- Kick the habit. Smoking increases blood pressure, heart rate and blood clotting and decreases oxygen delivery to your heart. If you smoke cigarettes and have been thinking about quitting, ask for help! Remember, you are not alone.
HINT: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers tons of support to quit smoking, including free quit coaching, a free quit plan, free educational materials, and referrals to local resources, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669)
- Chill out. Make time each morning to practice relaxation techniques. Five minutes is all it takes!
HINT: I’m currently taking the “Oprah & Deepak 21-Day Meditation Challenge.” Check it out for free at: www.chopracentermeditation.com
- Get moving! Aerobic exercise reduces blood pressure in both hypertensive and non-hypertensive people, so there really is no good excuse to skip out on it. Find ways to sneak more movement into your day…you’re worth it!
HINT: The recommendation is 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week…BUT you don’t have to do it all at one time. Three 10-minute sessions works just as well.
Make it happen! If you have high blood pressure (or want to prevent high blood pressure)- choose one tip from above to put into practice today and the rest of the week. You. Are. Worth. It.
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