Reduce processed sugar and refined carbohydrates. Many studies have shown a link between high blood pressure and processed sugar. Even moderate amounts of sugar can raise blood pressure. For example, during the Framingham Women’s Health Study, women who drank as little as one soda per day had higher blood pressure than women who drank less. It’s not just sweet sugar that raises blood pressure. Refined carbohydrates, like white bread and pasta, covert to sugar quickly when they’re eaten, and they may also cause blood pressure to rise. There is evidence that reducing refined sugar intake can lower blood pressure and improve heart health.
Don’t deprive yourself of dessert just because you’re eager to get your blood pressure under control. A little dark chocolate can go a long way when it comes to lowering those numbers, thanks to its flavonoid content. Flavonoids, a type of plant-based pigment, have been linked to reductions in blood pressure, thanks to their ability to improve endothelial function, according to researchers at the University of Manitoba. Just make sure you’re choosing real dark chocolate for the biggest benefit; foods high in sugar, like most milk chocolate bars, have been linked to an increase in blood pressure by researchers at the New Zealand University of Otago. Reduce your risk of chronic disease even further by discovering and ditching the worst habits for heart health ASAP.
Blood pressure isn’t just a number. Chronically elevated blood pressure (hypertension) significantly increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, erectile dysfunction, eye disease (retinopathy), and kidney disease. Heart disease and stroke are two of the top five causes of death in the US (heart disease is #1), and hypertension is such a big contributor to both that the CDC claims hypertension was at least partially responsible for 410,000 deaths in the US in 2014.
Blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day, so measuring it in the morning might yield a different number than, say, the afternoon. Conditions like stress and lack of sleep can also fluctuate blood pressure. Visiting your doctor might feel nerve-wracking, which can elevate your blood pressure and create a condition called white coat hypertension.
Daily exercise: Being fit is a key part of blood pressure control. All kids with hypertension should exercise and play sports for 1 hour each day — with some activity (like jogging) most days and higher levels of activity (like running) 3 times a week. Usually, exercise is restricted only when hypertension is very severe. Kids with severe hypertension should not do any weight- or power-lifting, bodybuilding, or strength training until their blood pressure is under control and a doctor says it's OK.
Do not attempt to lower extremely elevated blood pressure in yourself or someone else. While the goal is to reduce blood pressure before additional complications develop, blood pressure should be reduced over the course of hours to days, depending on severity. It is important not to lower blood pressure too quickly, because rapid blood pressure reductions can cut off the supply of blood to the brain, leading to brain damage or death.
The chart below provides a general overview of blood pressure ranges updated to match the new American Heart Association guidelines. Take your blood pressure and identify your systolic & diastolic readings to compare ranges on the chart, OR enter your results in the blood pressure calculator to learn more about causes, symptoms, and treatment for your blood pressure readings