Simple strategies to lower blood pressure
Being diagnosed with high blood pressure can bring on a lot of emotions: fear, concern, worry. But know that you’re not alone. Here’s how to bring your numbers into the healthy range.
High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” because it often has no symptoms. And although nearly half of Americans have it, most are unaware, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Over time, untreated high blood pressure can put you at risk of a host of serious health issues, such as heart attack, stroke, vision loss, and kidney disease.
Reassuringly, heath problems don’t have to be your fate: You can take action to manage your blood pressure. The first step? Knowing your numbers. Seems obvious, but most people surveyed with high blood pressure hadn’t seen a health care provider in the past year, according to a report in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Don’t wait; schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor and have your blood pressure checked.
The next step? Use these expert tips to manage your blood pressure.
1. Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor.
Medications that control your blood pressure work best when you take them every day, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). If your doctor has prescribed two or more blood pressure drugs — or you’re on a drug for another condition — take everything exactly as directed. Let your doctor know all the prescription and nonprescription medications you’re taking (including vitamins and supplements). Some medications can be less effective or even dangerous when combined.
2. Make remembering your medication easy.
Consider using a pillbox that organizes your medications by day of the week and time of day. If possible, take your meds at the same time as other routine daily activities, such as when you make your morning coffee, or when you feed a pet. Or set an alarm on your clock, phone, or computer. And don’t forget to keep your medications together in one place, out of reach of children. Troubleshoot any lingering issues with your health care team.
Another pro tip: Ask your pharmacy to automatically refill your prescriptions. The easier it is to get and manage your medications, the more likely you’ll be to take them regularly.
3. Make feel-good changes.
As with most conditions, leading an active, healthy lifestyle will be one of your best medicines. The AHA recommends these changes:
- Eat a well-balanced diet that’s low in salt. When you can, opt to cook at home (foods you eat out are often high in sodium). And fill up on plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein.
- Enjoy more movement. Being active strengthens your heart. And the stronger your heart is, the more blood it can pump with less effort, which lowers the pressure in your arteries. Aim to move for at least 30 minutes each day. And look for ways to reduce the amount of time you’re sedentary.
- Limit alcohol. Stick to just one drink a day for women and two for men.
- Manage stress. Easier said than done, right? But it is possible. Talk to your doctor about what strategies may be right for you.
- Quit smoking. If you smoke, come up with a game plan to quit. (Your wallet and your health will thank you.)
4. Keep up with blood pressure checks.
The best way to know how your efforts are working? Checking your blood pressure. If it’s back at a healthy level (below 120/80 mm Hg), the AHA recommends being screened by your doctor at least once every two years. If it’s higher, your doctor may want to check your blood pressure more often — or even have you monitor it yourself and record the readings at home. Remember: Knowledge is power. So, be sure to follow your doctor’s guidance. And don’t be afraid to bring up any concerns along the way.
5. Don’t stop meds on your own.
You’re taking your medications, you’re making healthy changes, and your blood pressure stabilizes. Amazing! But don’t stop taking your medicine. When people with high blood pressure miss out on their medications regularly — even after their levels are healthy again — their risk of a stroke or heart attack increases. Always talk to your doctor before making any adjustments.
Finally, be an active part of your health care team. You know you better than anyone. So be open with your doctor about your concerns, questions, and what adjustments you can make to live your life to the fullest.