Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Or maybe you’re just trying to make sure you don’t get it. Either way, there are many things you can do to help you control your blood pressure – and live a healthier life.
Plus, if you do these things, you may also be able to avoid taking medication for high blood pressure. If you’re already taking medication, your primary care provider (PCP) may tell you that you need less of it.
But first, let’s talk about why it’s important to control your blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause problems throughout your body. It makes you more likely to suffer from heart problems. It can lead to strokes or dementia. It can damage your eyes. And it can cause kidney failure. These are just a few of the harmful and possibly fatal things that high blood pressure can cause. The good thing is, high blood pressure can be managed. Here are 10 things you can start doing now to help lower your blood pressure and keep it down:
- Quit smoking
You’ve heard it before – smoking is bad for you! But it’s true, especially if you have high blood pressure. If you quit, you can help your blood pressure stay normal. Better yet, people who quit smoking may live longer than people who don’t. Fortunately, there are all kinds of resources to help you quit.
- Get more active
We all know that exercise is good for us. But if you have high blood pressure, it’s even more important. What’s great is, you can get exercise anywhere. Walking, riding a bike, dancing – they’re all smart (and fun!) ways to help improve your blood pressure. Not sure how to get started? No problem. Talk to your PCP about creating an exercise program that’s right for you.
- Make healthier food choices
Eating well isn’t always easy, especially when you’re busy. But if you can do things like eat at home more often, or carry healthy snacks with you when you’re out, you can make a difference in your blood pressure. If you’d like more advice on healthy eating, come to a free Nutrition Workshop at the Rogue Valley Family YMCA.
- Eat less salt
Cutting back on salt in your diet can make a real difference if you have high blood pressure. And you may be surprised how many ways you can make that happen. Start by using herbs and spices in your food instead of salt. Then try eating fewer processed foods, because many of them have salt added. And if there’s something you need at the grocery store that comes in a “low sodium” version, give it a try.
- Drink less alcohol
A drink now and then is fine for most people. But if you drink more than a moderate amount of alcohol, you can actually raise your blood pressure. And if you’re taking blood pressure medication, it may not work as well if you drink. If you are having trouble reducing or quitting alcohol, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your PCP about the substance use disorder services available to you.
- Talk to your PCP about medications and supplements
Some medications can raise your blood pressure. That includes prescription and over-the-counter medications. Stimulants (like Ritalin), herbal supplements, and illegal substances can raise your blood pressure, too. Talk to your doctor about anything that you’re taking. And if you’re concerned about your substance use, there are helpful substance use disorder services available to you. They could save your life.
- Try to reduce your stress level
Everyone feels stress now and then. And it can be one of the hardest things to control in your life. Start by making more time for things you enjoy. Try to get more sleep. Exercise helps, too. And if the stress gets to be too much, be sure to talk to your PCP about the Mental Health benefits and services you get with Jackson Care Connect. You can also find a mental health provider online.
- Track your blood pressure and see your PCP
Keeping track of your blood pressure at home is an important way to help manage it. Talk to your PCP about how you can do that. And speaking of your PCP, regular visits with them can help you make sure you’re doing all you can to keep your blood pressure under control. Not sure who your PCP is? Look on your Jackson Care Connect Member ID card.
- Lose a few extra pounds
Did you know that as your weight increases, your blood pressure may increase, too? Losing weight is one of the best ways to reduce high blood pressure. Even losing just a few pounds will make a difference. Want some help? Start with your PCP. They can help you create a weight loss plan that’s healthy and effective. You can also find some helpful tips here.
- Get help from friends and family
Some of the best support you can get when you’re living with high blood pressure is from your family and friends. People who care about you want you to live a long and healthy life. (In fact, some studies show that having even a simple connection with others could lead to a longer life.) So, be sure to tell them how they can help. Whether it’s getting you out of the house for exercise, helping you eat better, or just making you laugh when you’re stressed out, friends and family can be one of your very best resources for better health.
More helpful resources
Learn more about high blood pressure
Checking your blood pressure at home
High blood pressure and exercise
Beating high blood pressure with food
Managing stress What are my Jackson Care Connect health benefits?