The excessive pressure on your artery walls caused by high blood pressure can damage not just your blood vessels but your vital organs such as the kidneys, brain, liver, and heart as well, and also cause blindness, paralysis, heart attack, stroke etc.
Mayo Clinic experts share tips for the management of health conditions that may otherwise cause damage to one's health.
Here are 10 lifestyle changes it suggests that you can bounce off your doctor before incorporating, so as to help lower your blood pressure and keep it down.
10 tips for reducing High BP without medication:
- Shed the excess weight, especially around the waistline: Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Obesity or excess flab can cause obstruction in your breathing while you sleep (sleep apnoea), and further raise your blood pressure. Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure. Losing even a small amount of weight if you're overweight or obese can help reduce your blood pressure. Also, carrying too much weight around your waist can put too much pressure on your heart. The heart muscles may come under duress while trying to carry out the job of pumping blood to circulate it around the body and this may put you at greater risk of high blood pressure.
- Exercise regularly: Do whatever activity pleases you. Walk, run, dance, cycle, swim... Just remember that regular physical activity — such as 150 minutes a week, or about 30 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. Don't stop when you see good effects, continue your aerobic activities. You can also try high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which involves alternating short bursts of intense activity with subsequent recovery periods of lighter activity. Do you enjoy training with weights - however small or big? Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Ask your doctor to help design an exercise program just for you.
- Eat nutritious, balanced food: One need not tell again and again how big a role a healthy diet plays in maintaining health parameters. Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 11 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. Have you heard of the DASH diet or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension method of cooking/eating? Maintain a food diary that helps keep track of your dietary intake. Increase the Potassium-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. It helps keep the High BP-causing sodium low.
- Banish the salt-shaker: Work on reducing the sodium in your diet. Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can improve your heart health and reduce blood pressure by about 5 to 6 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. Avoid foods with preservatives, chips and namkeens. Avoid adding salt while at the dining table. Reduce salt intake slowly but do not give up salt in food completely. Some sodium is vital to maintain blood pressure and smooth working of the heart.
- Curtail the alcohol intake: Ask your doctor if you may consume alcohol at all. Remember, it's a two-edged sword and cuts both ways. Some studies say that by drinking alcohol only in moderation — generally one drink a day for women, or two a day for men — you can potentially lower your blood pressure by about 4 mm Hg. At the same time, that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol.
- Quit smoking: Cigarette smoke carries tar inside your throat, to the lungs and later to the blood. Cigarettes or any tobacco has tens of carcinogenic and plaque-forming compounds. Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. Quit smoking to reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. Remember, non-smokers have a better shot at longevity than smokers.
- Reduce coffee consumption, check the caffeine in your diet: The jury is still out on the role caffeine plays in blood pressure elevation. Caffeine can raise blood pressure up to 10 mm Hg in people who rarely consume it. But people who drink coffee regularly may experience little or no effect on their blood pressure. Avoid energy drinks that have enormous amounts of sugar and caffeine. The sudden jolt of adrenalin caused by those high levels of sugar and caffeine is not good for your heart and ultimately for your blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about the effects of caffeine on your blood pressure.
- Deal with the triggers of stress: You do not need that huge amount of stress that a bad office environment or relationship may give you. Nor the stress from the economic strain either. Chronic stress may contribute to high blood pressure. One may also react to occasional or chronic stress by eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol or smoking. Try meditation, and change your approach to life or the expectations you harbour. Plan your day and focus on your priorities. Do not take on too much, learn to say no. Make time to relax and to do activities you enjoy. Take awe-walks, and do breathing exercises. Practice gratitude. Volunteer for social activities.
- Monitor your blood pressure at home and see your doctor regularly: This has shown to genuinely work. Home monitoring can help you keep tabs on your blood pressure, make certain your lifestyle changes are working, and alert you and your doctor to potential health complications. Home monitoring of blood pressure is no rocket science as easy-to-use electronic BP measuring machines are easily available now.
- Stay connected to friends, family, and colleagues; get support: Supportive family and friends can help improve your health. They may encourage you to take care of yourself, drive you to the doctor's office or embark on an exercise program with you to keep your blood pressure low. Support groups are a great help too. If you cannot attend in-person meetings, there are virtual ones that exist with real members like you. Various social media groups and local support groups are available.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.