Hypertension can be controlled by a few lifestyle changes along with medications, to avoid complications such as congestive heart failure, coronary heart disorder, stroke, kidney failure, etc.
Lifestyle changes help in reducing the dose, frequency of medications for Hypertension by lowering and maintaining blood pressure at a normal range.
Overweight, obesity may often cause raised blood pressure due to raised cholesterol levels, sleep apnea (breathing difficulty while sleeping), etc. Weight loss of 1 kg is known to help in reducing blood pressure by 1 mm Hg in obese and overweight individuals. It may also be important to keep a watch on the waist measurement.
Regular exercises, aerobic exercises, jogging, brisk walking, cycling, swimming, etc. for at least 30 minutes most of the days of the week (4-5 days in a week) may help in reducing blood pressure by about 5-8 mm Hg in hypertensive and pre-hypertensive individuals.
DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) helps in lower blood pressure by about 11 mm of Hg. It comprises of more
- Fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Fiber rich whole grains.
- Nuts & legumes.
- Fish (non-fried) preferably those rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Poultry (without skin).
- Skimmed and low fat dairy products.
- Olives and olive oil.
- Food with unsaturated fats.
It is also important to avoid foods with
- Total and saturated fats.
- Red meat.
- Sugar and sugary drinks, aerated drinks.
- Refined carbohydrates, etc.
Including more potassium rich foods in diet may also be helpful.
It is a good practice to keep a food diary and to check labels on the packaged food products for contents to stick to healthy diet plan.
Dietary limit of sodium in healthy adults is usually 2300mg/day. Limiting the amount to less than 1500mg/day if not 1000mg/day may help in reducing blood pressure to normal in hypertensive individuals.
This is best achieved by limiting amount of salt in food while cooking, replacing salt with herbs for flavors, avoiding canned and processed foods, etc.
- Limiting amount of alcohol intake:
Alcohol can be good and bad for health, that may depend on frequency and amount of its intake. Limiting the amount of alcohol intake to less than 2 drinks in men and 1 drink in women in a day is adviced, however it is best to abstain from alcohol.
Blood pressure is known to rise and may remain high for a few minutes after smoking. Quitting smoking may be beneficial to health, with regards to hypertension, heart disorders, etc.
- Restricted intake of caffeine:
Studies show that caffeine may raise blood pressure in individuals who drink caffeinated drinks rarely but may not show many changes in blood pressure who take regularly. However, checking blood pressure after 30 minutes of drinking caffeinated drink may help in analyzing the sensitivity of self to hypertension with caffeine.
Stress may raise blood pressure in many individuals. It can also be due to the habits of binge eating, weight gain, smoking, alcohol intake, etc. by many individuals going through stress.
Avoiding situations and people responsible for stress, yoga, meditation, spending a lot of time with family, friends and closed ones, playing with pets, walking/jogging in parks, warm shower, listening music, practicing hobbies, changing attitude towards certain situations with optimum expectations, etc. may help in overcoming from stress.
- Well organized and disciplined lifestyle:
Keeping a dairy for blood pressure, health events, food dairy, noting down episodes with high/low blood pressure to know if there is a pattern and also to discuss with the treating physician, well-disciplined diet and physical activity may be a good practice.
DASH diet, restricting sodium intake in diet, regular exercises, avoiding smoking and alcohol intake may be best ideal approach in making lifestyle changes for Hypertension along with the prescribed medications.
- Studies state that DASH diet, with alcohol restriction, low sodium intake, weight loss may help in reducing 14.2/7.4 mm of Hg among individuals with Hypertension, decrease the conversion of Pre-hypertension (borderline raised blood pressure) to Hypertension.
Along with all of the above, checking blood pressure regularly is a good practice.
-Dr. Divya Teja Pasupuleti