Take Action with High Blood Pressure
Julie Walker, Take Control Staff
If your wellness results show elevated blood pressure (hypertension or prehypertension), now is the time to take action.
Prehypertension = 120 to 129/80+ and hypertension = 130+/80+.
For the majority of people, high blood pressure tends to develop gradually over many years. And in most cases, there are usually no symptoms. Because there are often no symptoms, its often easy to think you can delay treatment. However, damage to the heart, brain, kidney and blood vessels can take place . Many people who get high blood pressure have a history of it in their family. Be sure to share known family history with your doctor.
At Take Control, we treat each person with high blood pressure individually. We'll work with you to create a health plan that fits your unique situation. The following list of strategies and lifestyle changes can improve your blood pressure.
- Monitor your blood pressure at home on a regular basis. You can buy a home-monitoring cuff for around $45 and up. We recommend the Omron 5 Series or the Omron 10 Series, available at Walgreens, Walmart, or Amazon. Share your blood pressure readings with your primary care provider (PCP). If your PCP recommends using medications to treat your high blood pressure, give it serious consideration. Taking medication allows your blood pressure to be controlled while you are working on lifestyle changes.
- Do something active every day. Choose activities that you enjoy, from walking with purpose to taking classes at a gym. Aim for activity that pushes your comfort zone, it’s more beneficial if you sweat a little. Try to build up to 30 minutes five times per week. If you can incorporate strength training into your routine, make sure you’re not holding your breath when you’re working out, and keep a light grip on dumbbells and weight machine handles.
- If needed, lose weight. Your Take Control coach can help you identify specific strategies that will work for your lifestyle. Losing weight may sound daunting, but it only takes a small amount, about 7%, to make a significant improvement in your blood pressure.
- Reduce sodium (salt) intake. Few of us over-salt our food. Sodium hides in all packaged foods so it’s important to read food labels and check sodium content. Sodium content is especially high in breads, cheese, deli meats, condiments, and dressings. Don’t forgot to go through the items you already have in your fridge and pantry, and remove any with high sodium. Choose products with no more than 140 mg sodium per serving. Often you can keep eating the same product by choosing a different brand. Instead of cooking with salt, try a variety of herbs and spices to add flavor. Know that at first your food will taste different. Sodium enhances the flavor of food, but your taste buds will quickly adapt to the new flavors of herbs and spices. Rather than add salt in the recipe, add salt when you serve the meal. Additionally, there are phone apps that help track sodium.
- Choose a wide variety of foods including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, and low saturated fats. Choose fresh foods more often than processed foods. Increasing vegetable and other fiber intake will naturally reduce blood pressure. Diets higher in potassium can help lower blood pressure -- avocados, sweet potatoes, spinach, watermelon, beans, and bananas are all good sources of potassium. Choose lower sodium cheese like mozzarella over cheddar. Search for recipes that are low sodium and heart healthy. Start by changing one meal a day, this can make a difference and won't seem so overwhelming. When eating out, ask for sauces, dressings, and condiments served on the side and use sparingly.
- Reduce stress. Try reducing commitments, and adding activities that help you relax such as reading, music, going outdoors, spending time with friends, meditation, yoga, and deep breathing. Assess your work/life balance, and identify strategies for improvement.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine. Try herbal tea, decaf coffee part of the time, and increase water intake. Aim for half your body weight in water ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, try to drink 75 ounces of water each day.
- Focus on good sleep quality and create a healthy bedtime routine. Adequate and quality sleep can do wonders for your health, including stress reduction.
- If you use nicotine-containing products, stop. We understand this is much easier said than done. We have a coach on staff specially trained in addiction to help make this goal a reality.
- If you’re craving something salty to eat, try drinking water first and wait 20 minutes before having a salty snack. There’s a good chance you may just be thirsty.
- Identify your support people – friends, family, your Take Control coach, or close co-workers who will encourage your healthy lifestyle.
The bottom line: if you are willing to make a few of the changes listed above, lower blood pressure IS possible! You have an opportunity to reverse heart disease and stroke before they manifest. We hope you’ll embark on that journey, and we’re here to make it easier for you.