Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is a common but dangerous health condition. Fortunately, though, it can be prevented and managed well through healthy lifestyle changes.
High blood pressure can be fatal – especially when left untreated. It can cause heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in America.
And, shockingly, almost half of all American adults have high blood pressure.
The good news is that you can prevent hypertension – and if you already have it, it’s treatable. The first step is to talk to your doctor about checking your blood pressure.
What is high blood pressure?
Your blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood passing through your blood vessels at any given moment. When your arteries are narrow, your blood has less space to move through. This increases the pressure in those arteries.
The constant high pressure can damage your arteries, heart, brain, and other organs.
However, medical treatment plus strategic lifestyle changes can help you maintain healthy blood pressure.
Why is high blood pressure so dangerous?
High blood pressure is often called “the silent killer” because it can lead to the development of complicated – even fatal – health conditions. Yet, many of us don’t realize we have high blood pressure until it’s too late.
High blood pressure is one of the top causes of heart disease. When your blood pressure is high, your heart has to pump more frequently and with more force. This hard work takes its toll on your heart.
High blood pressure can also reduce your brain’s supply of oxygen-rich blood. This can cause a stroke.
Over time, high blood pressure might also damage other organs, including your eyes and kidneys. It can cause dizziness and a range of other uncomfortable symptoms.
Diagnosing high blood pressure
The good news is that blood pressure is easy to check. Your doctor will use a cuff, which is placed on your arm and inflated, to read your blood pressure.
Most doctors will check your blood pressure at every appointment. However, you can request a blood pressure reading if they don’t check it – it’s simple, quick, and pain-free.
If you want to understand your reading better, Blood Pressure UK has a handy chart that explains what the numbers mean.
If your blood pressure is high, your doctor might suggest checking it again within a few days or weeks. Sometimes, they’ll offer you a home blood pressure monitor so that you can monitor your blood pressure at home for a few days. Your doctor will rarely diagnose you with high blood pressure after only one reading.
High blood pressure can be caused by certain underlying diseases. Your doctor will probably order tests to check whether you have those conditions. These tests can include:
- A cholesterol screening
- An electrocardiogram (to check your heart)
- An ultrasound of your heart or kidneys
- Other blood tests
Although it can be scary to hear that you have high blood pressure, understand that this means you’re in a far better position to take care of your health. When it comes to your health, knowledge is power – and your diagnosis is the first step in managing high blood pressure.
How is high blood pressure treated?
If your high blood pressure is caused by an underlying condition, your doctor’s first step will be to address that condition.
Your doctor will probably prescribe some lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure. This can include:
- Regular exercise
- Dietary changes
- Reducing stress
- Quitting tobacco
- Cutting down on caffeine/alcohol
Your doctor might also prescribe medication to lower your blood pressure.
High blood pressure requires close monitoring. Your doctor will probably suggest you return for a checkup within a few months, depending on your health condition.
High blood pressure during pregnancy
Many people who don’t ordinarily have high blood pressure become hypertensive during pregnancy. For this reason, your doctor will probably check your blood pressure whenever you have an appointment with them.
More often than not, you can still deliver a healthy baby without major complications. However, your doctor will monitor you closely if your blood pressure is high.
How can I maintain healthy blood pressure?
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension or not, it’s wise to make some positive lifestyle changes. Certain healthy habits can prevent you from developing high blood pressure. They can also help you lower your blood pressure if you are already hypertensive.
Here at Knew Health, we know that making certain lifestyle changes can be difficult. We offer our Members free health coaching.
Your health coach can:
- Help you identify lifestyle changes that you’d like to make
- Offer you encouragement
- Suggest ways to build healthy habits
- Be a way for you to hold yourself accountable for your goals
Here are a few science-backed ways to maintain healthy blood pressure.
Get regular checkups
The best way to maintain your health is to monitor your health. As mentioned, you can have high blood pressure without experiencing any obvious symptoms, so getting regular checkups is essential.
Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure whenever you see them. You might also be able to get free blood pressure readings at your local pharmacy or clinic.
Knew Health Members are covered for preventative care, such as annual physicals. An annual physical exam is a perfect opportunity to get a blood pressure reading.
Plenty of research suggests that regular exercise, particularly aerobic and resistance exercise, can lower your chances of developing high blood pressure.
Exercise strengthens your heart, which means it can pump with less effort. Regular physical activity can also reduce stress levels – and reducing stress can lower your blood pressure.
A 2019 report by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association suggests that we do medium- to high-intensity exercise for 40 minutes three or four times a week.
However, smaller amounts of exercise can still be beneficial. Remember, some exercise is better than no exercise.
If you’re not typically into exercise, try to find a kind of physical activity that’s enjoyable for you. This can include:
- Walking your dog
- Riding a bike
- Doing household chores
- Playing a sport
If you’re a Knew Health Member, you might enjoy our free fitness resources. Aim to increase your weekly activity levels little by little. Your body and mind will thank you for it!
Make positive dietary changes
You probably already know that the food you eat can have a major impact on your physical health. Even a few small dietary changes can help lower your blood pressure.
Firstly, you can cut back on foods that increase blood pressure.
- Red meat
- Refined sugars
- Processed foods (which often contain a lot of salt and sugar)
Instead, eat more whole foods – in other words, foods that have not been processed a great deal. This can include poultry, fish, fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and legumes.
Drink enough water
Drinking enough water can benefit your health in many different ways. Your brain, heart, and kidneys – as well as other organs and tissues – need to be adequately hydrated in order to function properly.
The perfect amount of water will vary from person to person, but generally, it’s a good idea to aim for between two and three liters of fluids per day. You can learn more about water and hydration here.
Get enough sleep
In order for your brain and body to function, it’s crucial to get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can leave you feeling fatigued, stressed, and unfocused. Research suggests that chronically getting too little sleep can increase your blood pressure.
Getting enough sleep doesn’t just lower your stress levels – it’ll give you enough energy to engage in more physical movement throughout the day.
Try to improve your sleep hygiene by creating a comfortable, cozy room. Get into a regular sleep schedule that works for your lifestyle.
In some cases, supplements can help lower your blood pressure. These supplements include:
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Whey protein
However, it’s important to use supplements responsibly. Opt for high-quality supplements and always let your healthcare practitioners know that you’re taking them, especially if you’re also on prescription medication.
Knew Health Members benefit from a 35% discount on supplements from certain high-quality brands.
Smoking cigarettes can take a major toll on your mental and physical health. Smoking is linked to numerous health conditions, including high blood pressure.
It’s not easy to quit smoking, but it’s one of the best things you can do for your health. Speak to your doctor about a smoking cessation program.
Stress is an inevitable part of life. However, chronic stress can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health. Stress can lead to increased blood pressure.
To reduce stress:
- Avoid taking on more work, chores, and activities than what you can realistically do
- Engage in stress-relieving activities, like meditation, exercise, and deep breathing
- Spend time doing enjoyable activities, like spending time with loved ones or engaging in hobbies
- Find healthy ways to reflect and process emotions, such as journaling
- Set firm boundaries at work, at home, and beyond
- Get plenty of restful sleep
You might also benefit from seeing a therapist or health coach. These professionals can provide a great way to process your feelings while learning excellent life skills. Through therapy, you can learn healthy ways to process your feelings, cope with stress, and set boundaries.
Take your prescription medication
If your doctor has prescribed medication for your blood pressure, it’s important to take it. Don’t stop taking the medication without your doctor’s permission and supervision – this can be dangerous.
If you struggle to remember to take your medication on a daily basis, set an alarm on your phone or use a bright Post-It note near your desk to remind you.
Maintaining a healthy blood pressure
When it comes to maintaining your overall health, one of the best things you can do is to keep your blood pressure in check. This requires you to be proactive by having regular checkups and engaging in healthy lifestyle choices.
Regardless of whether you have high blood pressure or not, it’s important to get your blood pressure tested on a regular basis. Positive self-care strategies, such as reducing stress and exercising regularly, will benefit your health beyond your blood pressure.
- Bathgate CJ, et al. (2016). Objective but not subjective short sleep duration associated with increased risk for hypertension in individuals with insomnia.
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- How much physical activity do adults need? (2020).
- Preeclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy. (2020).
Disclaimer: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to educate you about how to take care of your body and as a self-help tool for your own use so that you can reach your own health goals. It is not intended to treat or cure any specific illness and is not to replace the guidance provided by your own medical practitioner. This information is to be used at your own risk based on your own judgment. If you suspect you have a medical problem, we urge you to take appropriate action by seeking medical attention.