What Else Can Help Lower Blood Pressure?

Last week we discovered that exercise is very effective at decreasing high blood pressure but what else can help? For those with hypertension, you’ll be relieved to hear that there are several things you can do to decrease your blood pressure and cut down the risks of heart disease and stroke.

  • Weight loss. Losing 8kg can decrease your systolic blood pressure (SBP) by 8.5mm Hg and decrease your diastolic blood pressure (DBP) by 6.5mm Hg. A man’s waist circumference should be less than 102cm (90cm for asian men) and a women’s should be less than 88cm (80cm for asian women).
  • Diet. A small reduction in sodium intake can lower blood pressure by 8-10mm Hg. Sodium intake should be restricted to 1500-2300mg in those with hypertension. According to the Mayo Clinic, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet can reduce blood pressure by up to 14mm Hg. The DASH diet is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Alcohol. In small amounts alcohol can actually be beneficial for the cardiovascular system but the protective effect is lost if you drink too much. The NHS recommends that “men should not regularly drink more than three to four units a day and women should not regularly drink more than two to three units a day”. Check out this unit calculator if you’re wondering exactly how much a unit is.
  • Smoking and second-hand smoke. Smoking can elevate your blood pressure by about 10mm Hg for up to an hour after smoking.
  • Caffeine. Caffeine has been found to increase blood pressure temporarily but the long-term effects are still unknown. The Mayo Clinic recommend that you drink no more than 2 cups of coffee a day whereas the NHS recommend drinking no more than 4 cups a day. I guess it depends on the type of coffee you’re drinking!
  • Stress. Stress and anxiety can temporarily increase blood pressure so relaaaaax! Yeah, I know, easier said than done…It helps if you can identify the cause and then take some steps to curtail or eliminate it. Breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, exercise, CBT, counselling, etc may help as well.

Remember to check your blood pressure regularly to see how well you’re doing and why not enrol family and friends to offer support and make sure that you stick to the programme!

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