According to the American Heart Association, almost 100 million Americans are affected by high blood pressure. High blood pressure is defined as blood pressure above 130/80 mmHg and is considered severe if the pressure is above 180/120 mmHg. The top number represents the pressure in your arteries during the contraction of your heart; the bottom number represents your diastolic blood pressure, or the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests. Click here for a guide to measuring your blood pressure!

Uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to more serious health problems, such as heart disease and stroke. Many people don’t realize that high blood pressure often has no symptoms, which makes it all the more important to focus on your heart. Lowering your blood pressure does not have to be a daunting task. Try to incorporate these health-boosting tips into your daily lifestyle:

Reduce your sodium intake 

Reducing your salt intake is one of the major factors in lowering your blood pressure. Sodium is found naturally in most of the food we eat. You can typically find the amount of sodium contained in a food’s serving size on the nutrition label. To achieve a low-sodium diet, it is recommended that your daily intake of sodium/salt not exceed 1500 mg. On the nutrition label, look for a serving size daily value (DV) of less than 5 percent.

Be more active

Increasing physical activity each day helps to reduce your blood pressure in two ways:

  1. It strengthens your heart muscles, which means that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood through your body. The less work needed to pump blood means the less pressure, or force, in your arteries.
  2. It helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Let’s face it: The more there is of us, the more the heart has to work to send vital nutrients via the blood throughout the body.

Eat less processed food and more fresh fruit and veggies

One of the not-so-good things about processed food is that it is usually high in sodium. Looking at the nutrition label: A serving size with a daily value (DV) of more than 20 percent is considered high in salt. Fresh fruit and vegetables are not only naturally low in sodium, they have blood pressure reducing properties. Look for blueberries, red beets, garlic, and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel.

Quit smoking, limit alcohol, and cut back on caffeine

When you smoke, the nicotine in cigarettes causes your arteries to narrow, which increases your blood pressure. Narrow arteries mean less space and more force and pressure against the walls of your arteries. It also means a higher chance of injury to your heart muscle. Quitting smoking eliminates the risk and impact of nicotine. Similarly, both alcohol and caffeine raise blood pressure.

Watch your weight

Losing weight has a positive impact on your blood pressure and reduces the strain on your heart. Getting the recommended 30 minutes each day of increased cardio activity five days per week, along with healthy eating, can help you lose weight or maintain it. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen.

If you need more ideas on how to take steps towards a healthier life, talk to your Health Advisor. We’re here to help!