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7 Essential Lifestyle Changes in Hypertension

By Fisayomi Aturamu

When diagnosed with Hypertension, there are essential lifestyle changes that could improve blood pressure control in the long term.

essential lifestyle changes in treating hypertension - lady having her blood pressure checked
Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash


What should you know about Hypertension?

Hypertension literally means high blood pressure.

A person is said to be hypertensive when their blood pressure is higher than normal.

Blood pumped from your heart is moved all over the body through blood vessels.

The pressure of blood against your blood vessels as it moves through your body is what is known as blood pressure.[1]

When this pressure is greater than normal, it becomes a problem.

Learn about the causes of high blood pressure here.


After Diagnosis with Hypertension

So you have been diagnosed with hypertension, or know someone who has hypertension.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed but the good news is you don’t have to fret - high blood pressure can be controlled.

Take one day at a time.

The following are practical ways that would help you get started on the lifestyle changes that would help improve your health.

They can, in addition to medication, make a big difference to the control of your blood pressure.


7 Essential Lifestyle Changes

  1. Reduced salt/sodium intake:
    • To reduce your sodium intake, reduce salt use to the barest minimum.
    • For example, do not add salt to your food.
    • Prepare your meals using sodium-free spices only.
    • Avoid canned foods and fast foods as they usually contain lots of sodium.
    • If you must eat canned foods like canned mushrooms etc; consider rinsing well to remove some of the sodium that they have been packaged with. [2]
  2. Adjustment of dietary habits to the ‘DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diet’:
    • The DASH diet was developed by researchers.
    • It is essentially one that is sodium restrictive and includes fruits, vegetables and other foods rich in fibre content.
    • It promotes eating less red meat and more fish and skinless poultry.
    • With DASH, you choose only dairy products that are low in fat.[2],[3]
    • You would also use healthier ways of preparing meals like baking, broiling, roasting and boiling instead of frying.[4]
    • Your meal options should include whole grains rather than refined grains, i.e. brown bread instead of white bread, brown rice instead of white rice, etc.
    • Following the DASH diet and restricting caloric intake is guaranteed to help you lose weight as well, thus, improving your blood pressure.[5]
  3. Regular physical activity:
    • Regular exercise is highly beneficial.
    • Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 15 minutes of intense activity for 5 days per week. [1]
    • Physical activity that could be done anywhere with little or no equipment is highly recommended.
    • Discuss with your doctor on the type of physical activity best for you.
  4. Weight loss:
    • Aim to lose weight while partaking in physical activity.
    • This will be of great benefit to your overall health and also help with your blood pressure in the long run.
    • As little as a 5kg loss in weight can result in a lowered blood pressure of 5mmhg.
    • The best way to shed some kilos is to exercise regularly while eating healthy meals and maintaining a state of a caloric deficit.
    • This means you watch what you eat to ensure that the calories taken in do not exceed the amount of energy spent.
    • Losing just a small amount of weight if you're overweight or obese can go a long way to help reduce your blood pressure.[6]
  5. Limited alcohol consumption:
    • Drinking more than the recommended intake of alcohol is bad for you.
    • Excessive alcohol consumption can also reduce the effectiveness of your blood pressure medications.[6]
    • ‘Moderate’ alcohol consumption means for beers (about 5% alcohol) you should not take more than 14 units a week.
    • Use this tool to calculate the number of units in the alcohol you consume.
  6. Eliminate Stress:
    • Remove stress from your life. seek emotional support if needed.[3]
    • Chronic stress could cause high blood pressure.
    • Therefore, identify stressors and eliminate all of your stressors. [6]
    • Seek emotional support if necessary.[3]
    • The right support from your family and friends can help improve your health. [6]
    • Remember to sleep as lack of sleep can elevate your stress levels.
  7. Stop smoking:
    • Quit smoking as soon as you can.
    • Do not stay around smokers to avoid secondhand smoke.
    • (This also helps you stay on track if you’re trying to quit).[3]
    • Quitting smoking would help reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health.[6]


Hypertension Therapy

Lifestyle modification should be the first step in anyone with hypertension.

But, bear in mind that each of these lifestyle changes is beneficial when used alone but they have the greatest effect on your health when used together.[3]

Remember to take each day, one step at a time.

Old habits are hard to change.

However, if health behaviours are modified at a slow and steady pace, they become sustainable.

These behavioural changes in diet or exercise should not cause side effects if done the right way.

Rather, they make medications work more effectively.

They also increase your sense of well-being and have overall health (and mental health) benefits that go beyond reducing your high blood pressure.[7]


And Lastly...

Here are some more tips about managing your blood pressure.

Any questions about this topic? Ask here.


More Reading:

References:

  1. Texas Department of State Health Services. Understanding Blood Pressure. [Accessed 6 February 2020]
  2. Mayo Clinic, 2020. DASH diet: Healthy eating to lower your blood pressure. [Accessed 6 February 2020]
  3. Michael J Bloch and Jan Basile, 2019. Patient education: High blood pressure, diet, and weight (Beyond the Basics). [Accessed 5 February 2020]
  4.  American Heart Association, 2015.  Let’s Talk About Lifestyle Changes To Prevent Stroke. [Accessed 5 February 2020]
  5. Craig Walsh, 2019. Lower your blood pressure with diet and exercise. [online] [Accessed 5 February 2020]
  6. Mayo Clinic, 2020. 10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication. [Accessed 5 February 2020].
  7. Randall Stafford, 2017. Too high: For high blood pressure, lifestyle changes are the most effective and safest drug. [Accessed 5 February 2020]


Editing by AskAwayHealth Team

Disclaimer

All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care.
The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly through info@askawayhealth.org


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