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4 Science-Backed Lifestyle Changes for Hypertension Management 

person relaxing in hammock, lifestyle changes to lower blood pressure
Mia Barnes
Mia Barnes Contributer

Managing your blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the best ways to improve your overall health and longevity. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death¹ of men and women worldwide, and the higher your systolic and diastolic numbers, the greater your risk. 

Fortunately, you can often manage hypertension by incorporate lifestyle changes. What works and what doesn’t? The following four science-backed changes will help you manage your blood pressure.

1. Cutting Back on Salt as Lifestyle Change for Hypertension 

That order of fast-food fries doesn’t do your blood pressure any favors, especially when you add extra salt. Salt causes your body to hold onto fluids², increasing the volume in your blood vessels and making your heart work harder. It’s so powerful that it even counteracts the effects of diuretics and vasodilation blood pressure medicines. 

Salt lurks in many ultra-processed foods. Pick up a can of regular soup at any grocery store and examine the sodium content — it probably contains half or more of your full day’s recommended intake. 

Putting down the shaker helps, especially as many people add a sprinkle to their food out of habit, not taste. However, reading labels may go even further in reducing your consumption. Pay special attention to: 

  • Canned soups.
  • Prepackaged frozen dinners.
  • Chips, tortillas, pretzels, crackers and popcorn.
  • Prepared meals at restaurants, especially fast food.
  • Canned — not fresh or frozen — vegetables.

How much is too much? Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states up to 2,300 milligrams per day³ is OK, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 milligrams⁴, especially if you have a history or family history of heart disease. 

2. Quitting Smoking 

Smoking causes an immediate spike in blood pressure and heart rate, and doctors link it to malignant hypertension, leading to organ damage. It basically acts like artificial adrenaline⁵, making your heart work harder. 

If you’re looking to quit smoking, investigate free government resources to help. They may connect you with smoking cessation medications such as patches, gum, lozenges, nasal sprays or inhalers to make nicotine withdrawal easier. Avoid vaping if it’s the hand-to-mouth motion you crave, as that can pose similar health risks — consider investing in flavored toothpicks to provide the soothing motion without the hazards. 

3. Managing Your Stress 

Stress results from various causes. The most frequently cited source stems from financial instability⁶, followed by work and issues with personal relationships. Poor health is also a factor, as 80% of older adults⁷ live with chronic conditions, and over half have more than one. 

There’s no magic wand you can wave to erase debt, and many chronic diseases have no cure. Disentangling yourself from toxic work and family relationships takes time and isn’t always possible. So, what can you do to manage stress despite these factors? Try these interventions:

  • Meditation: YouTube is a wellspring of free guided videos that can calm you if sitting in silence is too much. 
  • Yoga: Try vigorous styles like Ashtanga vinyasa yoga or those intended to soothe the nervous system, like Yin or restorative yoga. 
  • Exercise: Although vigorous exercise raises stress hormone levels at first, it moderates them if you don’t overtrain — stick to 30 to 60 minutes a few times per week. 
  • Hobbies: Losing yourself in something for the sheer joy of doing it works wonders for reducing stress and improving mental health. 
  • Therapy: Even those who lack the financial resources for a professional therapist can often find solace in support groups for free. 
  • Volunteering: Volunteering provides you with positive social engagement and raises levels of happy neurotransmitters like oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, which combat high stress hormone⁸ levels. 

4. Losing Weight 

While you can carry a few extra pounds and still be healthy, losing weight can help your heart. One meta-analysis showed that overweight patients who reduce their body mass index⁹ (BMI) show a corresponding drop in their diastolic and systolic numbers. 

The best way to lose weight does not involve a strict diet — these can backfire as you inevitably feel deprived. Instead, focus on making one healthy meal choice at a time. Increase the quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables you consume, as they have oodles of nutrition and fiber to fill you up for fewer calories. Cutting back on ultra-processed foods in favor of whole versions also reduces your sodium intake, further lowering your numbers. 

Science-Backed Lifestyle Changes to Manage Hypertension 

Managing your blood pressure may be the best way to take charge of your health and improve your chances of longevity. Disease of this organ kills more people each year than anything else, but making lifestyle changes protects your ticker. Cut back on salt, quit smoking, manage your stress and improve your diet to enjoy happier heart health. 

 

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