How to Lower Your Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure
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High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, has been linked to stroke, heart failure, heart attack and aneurysm. Lowering your blood pressure can save your life.

“We tell people that you are part of the solution,” says Dr. Howard L. Haronian, chief medical director and vice president of the East Region of the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute.

“Hypertension is the nexus for a lot of healthcare problems,” he said, adding that the new guidelines lowered the levels by approximately 10 points so that people can begin to work with their healthcare provider to address the issue earlier. “We need to assess risk so we can decide what sort of treatment therapy to follow.”

Depending on your blood pressure numbers – which he says should be followed outside of the doctor’s office to ensure they aren’t artificially elevated due to “white coat anxiety” or fear of the doctor – you can opt for lifestyle modification to improve them.

These include:

  • Losing weight. Haronian said adults can expect to drop one point in blood pressure for every pound lost.
  • Eating a healthy diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy is recommended.
  • Putting the salt shaker down. The goal is less than 1,500 milligrams of salt a day, but even just reducing your intake by 1,000 milligrams will help.
  • Eating more potassium. Bananas and potatoes can help you reach the daily goal of 3,500-5,000 milligrams.
  • Exercising. Though aerobic and strength training are the best for your heart, even opting to park farther from the door or taking the stairs instead of the elevator will help. Keep your exercise regular, too, for the best results.
  • Watch your alcohol intake. Haronian says the body is “agnostic to alcohol,” meaning it doesn’t matter if you drink wine, hard liquor or beer. But women should drink no more than one a day, and men no more than two.

Anyone with blood pressure numbers that are consistently elevated or in the hypertension range will likely need lifestyle modifications and medication to help keep them under control.

“People have to be motivated to make changes,” Haronian says, adding that having a nutritionist in house helps his patients, as do community programs by the AHA.

For more information on the Heart & Vascular Institute, click here.

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