Last November, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology(with support from nine other organizations) released new blood pressure guidelines. Under these new guidelines, an additional 30 million people in the United States will fall under the category of ‘high blood pressure.’
The good news is, not all 30 million will have to immediately start medication. If your blood pressure is below 140/90, chances are your doctor will give you a chance to make some ‘lifestyle modifications’ before jumping for the Rx-pad.
First things first, make sure you’re getting accurate blood pressure readings. Do these five things to make sure your blood pressure isn’t falsely elevated:
- Before a reading, make sure you are relaxed, sitting quietly, and with your feet flat on the floor.
- Do not exercise, smoke, or drink coffee before a reading (at least 30 minutes).
- Go to the bathroom before getting your blood pressure checked.
- Ideally, the cuff should be on your skin, not over clothes, with your arm resting on the table.
- Repeat it! Measurements should be averaged over two or three measurements on two or three separate office visits.
If you are deemed to have high blood pressure, but want to avoid medication, there are some things you can do (besides avoid salt!) that can help get your blood pressure down naturally.
- Lose 5-10% of your body weight. It’s estimated that with each 10lb loss, your blood pressure will fall by about 5 points.
- Follow the DASH diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Reduce sodium to 1,500 mg/day. The four biggest sources of sodium in our diets are bread, deli meat, pizza, and soup. In order to stick to 1500mg a day, limit these four foods, and avoid adding any salt to your recipes. Choose whole, fresh foods rather than ones that have been packaged or highly processed.
- Increase potassium to 3,500-5,000 mg/day. Most fruits and vegetables contain potassium (not just bananas!), so aim for at least 5 servings a day – 2 fruits, and 3 cups vegetables.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Women should stick to a maximum of one drink a day and no more than two drinks a day for men.
- Exercise! Get 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week.
High blood pressure is often known as the ‘silent killer’, because there are often no symptoms of it until it has already done significant damage to the heart. Don’t let this silent killer sneak up on you. Stop in to a vybe urgent care center today to get a blood pressure reading and start making some changes today!