Normal blood pressure is vital to life. It is an important force because oxygen and nutrients would not be pushed around our circulatory system to nourish tissues and organs without blood pressure. Blood pressure is also vital because it delivers white blood cells and antibodies for immunity, and hormones such as insulin. The normal level of blood pressure is usually about 120 (systolic) over 80 (diastolic). If your blood pressure is 140 over 90 or higher you are at risk. The higher your blood pressure is, the greater your risk of heart attack or stroke, heart failure, kidney failure and poor circulation in your legs.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is called the ‘silent killer, as apparently there are no significant symptoms. Without visible symptoms, most people are unaware that they have high blood pressure. However, there are healthy lifestyle habits you can develop to help prevent hypertension and reduce your risk of high blood pressure-related health problems in the future.
Be active: Exercise is one of the best things you can do to lower high blood pressure. Physical activity is crucial. Moderate exercise for about 30 minutes three times a week is a good start. Increasing your activity level can be as simple as using the stairs; walking instead of driving and doing household chores. Make sure you’re doing something you love, or it won’t stick. Even everyday activities such as gardening can also help.
Check your blood pressure: Make sure that you have your blood pressure measured regularly. High blood pressure often occurs with no symptoms, so only blood pressure readings will tell you if your blood pressure is on the rise.
Watch your diet: Eat a balanced diet. Eating healthy foods can help keep your blood pressure under control. Get plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially those rich in potassium, and limit your intake of excess calories, fat, and sugar.
Stay away from salt shakers: In many studies, salt has been linked to high blood pressure. Keeping your sodium intake to a minimum can be vital for lowering blood pressure. Use herbs and spices to add flavour instead. Processed foods also tend to be loaded with sodium. Always read food labels and choose low-sodium alternatives when possible.
Quit smoking: Each cigarette you smoke temporarily raises blood pressure for several minutes after you finish. If you’re a heavy smoker, your blood pressure can stay elevated for extended periods of time. Aside from providing numerous other health benefits, quitting smoking can help your blood pressure return to normal.
Don’t take unnecessary stress: We live in stressful times. Workplace and family demands, national and international politics - they all contribute to stress. Stress can temporarily raise your blood pressure. Too much of it can keep your pressure up for extended periods of time. Finding ways to reduce your own stress is important for your health and your blood pressure. Practice deep breathing, take a walk, read a book, or watch a comedy. Listening to music daily has also been shown to reduce blood pressure.
Try meditation or yoga: Mindfulness and meditation have long been used as methods to reduce stress. Meditate or take slow, steady deep breaths to calm the nervous system, relax and your dilate blood vessels. Yoga, which commonly involves breathing control, posture, and meditation techniques, can also be effective in reducing stress and blood pressure.
Eat some dark chocolate: More good news for chocolate lovers - dark chocolate has been shown to lower blood pressure. A new Harvard study finds that eating a small square of dark chocolate daily can help lower blood pressure for people with hypertension. The benefits are thought to come from the flavonoids present in chocolate with more cocoa solids. The flavonoids help dilate, or widen, your blood vessels.
Get plenty of sleep: Your blood pressure typically dips down when you’re sleeping. If you don’t sleep well, it can affect your blood pressure. People who experience sleep deprivation, have an increased risk of high blood pressure. For some people, getting a good night’s sleep isn’t easy. There are many ways to help you get restful sleep. Try setting a regular sleep schedule, spend time relaxing at night, exercise during the day, avoid daytime naps, and make your bedroom comfortable.
Eat garlic or take garlic extract supplements: Fresh garlic or garlic extract are both widely used to lower blood pressure. According to one clinical study, a time-release garlic extract preparation may have a greater effect on blood pressure than regular garlic powder tablets.
Pomegranate juice: Pomegranates are full of natural ACE inhibitors which prevent those enzymes from doing damage to your circulatory system. Pomegranate juice is an exotic way to lower your blood pressure. But if it is too tart for your taste, consider adding it to another drink. Pour some in a smoothie with raspberries, and add a banana for extra potassium. Alternatively, add it to a cup of water to create delicious flavoured water. Regardless of how you decide to enjoy it, pomegranate juice is able to lower systolic blood pressure by as much as 30 per cent.
Last but not least: Blood pressure can be confusing. But it’s also an amazing predictor of your future heart health. Get familiar with your blood pressure numbers. Know them as well as you know your weight. Then listen to your doctor’s recommendations. If your doctor prescribes medication, don’t put off taking it because you think you can fix the problem through diet and exercise. For some people, lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough.