Swearing off cigarettes is probably the single best thing you can do for your heart. It’s good for your health in general, too. Not only does smoke hurt you over the long term, but your blood pressure goes up every time you have a cigarette. Lower your blood pressure and prolong your life by quitting. If you need help getting started, talk to your doctor.
According to the CDC, a whopping 75 million Americans—that’s nearly 1/3 of the adult population—are struggling with high blood pressure, increasing their risk of heart attack, stroke, and other life-altering health consequences along the way. Skipping the salt and squeezing in some regular workouts can help keep your blood pressure from reaching dangerous levels, but it takes a more proactive approach to keep your blood pressure under control in the long run.
As you age, your body goes through many changes that can put you at risk for other conditions. If you’re over 50, having a higher than usual systolic pressure might increase your risk of developing heart disease. Systolic blood pressure tends to increase steadily over time due to stiff arteries, a build-up of plaque, and a higher rate of cardiac and vascular disease. This means older adults need to be even more vigilant about monitoring their blood pressure and practicing heart-healthy self-care.
From long hours at the office to those little annoyances like traffic jams, day-to-day life provides us with a seemingly endless supply of little stresses. While those itty-bitty amounts of stress may seem like no big deal at first, over time, they can send your blood pressure skyrocketing, taking your health along for the ride. That’s why you need to stock up on foods that lower blood pressure.
When a blood pressure reading is taken, the higher number represents the systolic pressure and the lower number represents the diastolic pressure. For example: 120/80 (120 over 80) in an adult means that the systolic pressure is 120 and the diastolic pressure is 80. As kids grow, their blood pressure increases from a systolic pressure of about 70–90 (as babies) to adult values (when they're teens).
Some examples of aerobic exercise you may try to lower blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. You can also try high-intensity interval training, which involves alternating short bursts of intense activity with subsequent recovery periods of lighter activity. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Aim to include strength training exercises at least two days a week. Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program.
Blood pressure is measured both when the heart is actually beating (systolic pressure – the first measurement) and between beats (the resting rate, or diastolic pressure – the second measurement). It is given as two figures, eg 120/80. A device called a sphygmomanometer is used. An inflatable cuff is wrapped around your upper arm. When inflated the cuff stops the blood flow in the main blood vessel in your arm. The nurse then watches a gauge in the sphygmomanometer and listens through a stethoscope as the air in the cuff is released. When the first sound of the heartbeat is heard, the systolic pressure is recorded. When the sound disappears, the diastolic pressure is recorded. Sometimes a computerised blood pressure machine is used to take the readings automatically.
Various organizations including the United States Department of Agriculture recommend that Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. But the ideal limit is really no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. Unfortunately, the average sodium intake of Americans is more than 3,400 mg per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is partly because sodium is so easy to consume — just 1 teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium.
A person consistently showing blood pressure higher than 140/90 over several readings is considered to have hypertension. Doctors advise these people to make effective lifestyle changes to help lower their blood pressure, such as maintaining a healthy weight, including exercise in their daily routine, limiting salt and alcohol intake, and quitting smoking. The doctors will also recommend medication for hypertension depending on how much higher the BP is as compared to the normal blood pressure range and any other health problems that the patient faces.
Eat dark chocolate. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are both full of heart-healthy plant compounds called flavonoids. Flavonoids are good for you because they cause your blood vessels to dilate, which can help lower blood pressure. Just make sure your chocolate doesn’t have too much sugar. Choose chocolate that is at least 70 percent dark for best results. You can buy individually wrapped chocolate pieces that are the perfect size. Eat one or two a day and enjoy the delicious heart-protective effects.
Whelton PK, Carey RM, Aronow WS, et al. 2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA guideline for the prevention, detection, evaluation, and management of high blood pressure in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018;71(19):e127-e248. PMID: 29146535 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29146535.