This week the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology released new guidelines for the threshold of hypertension (ie elevated blood pressure) from the previous level of 140/90 to a new target of 130/80. This change was based on research that showed higher targets were associated with twice the risk of heart attack, stroke and other related diseases. This change means that 103 million Americans or 46% of adults now have hypertension. That means a lot more medications! Or a lifestyle change. Here are some evidence based changes that have been shown to reduce blood pressure-without medication!
1. Reduce salt- Limiting salt to 1.5 grams or less than 1 teaspoon daily results in a tremendous blood pressure effect. Most Americans get much more sodium that this mostly from packaged foods and eating out. Limit table salt and replace with herbs and spices when cooking. Also limit eating out, packaged foods and processed foods-less from the pantry and more from the fridge!
2. Eat your fruits and veggies- eat a minimum of 5 servings (ie cups) of fruits and vegetables per day and preferably 7-8 servings daily. F&V have magnesium and potassium that have been shown to reduce blood pressure.
3. Get moving-Regular physical activity-even just 20-30 minutes of walking daily can help open up your blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. More vigerous activity will have greater effects. So the more the better but any amount helps!
4. Get sleep- sleep disorders including restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea and insomnia are associated with hypertension. If you have difficulty sleeping-talk to your physician and get tested. Also do your part by practicing good sleep hygiene including limiting screen time at least 1 hour before bedtime, limiting caffeine and alcohol which can disrupt sleep.
5. Yoga, Mindfulness and Meditation- there is an increasing amount of medical evidence that these relaxation techniques are effective in reducing blood pressure among other related illnesses. Don’t know where to start? There are apps, books and videos downloadable for the masses.
High blood pressure is an important cause of heart disease. Medications will be necessary for many Americans to reach these new targets and to save lives but for some of us, lifestyle change is all it takes. Commit to a healthier lifestyle by following these tips!
To a Happy and Healthy You!
Dr. Adrienne Youdim MD FACP