A diet that’s low in fat and carbohydrates can improve artery function, according to a 2012 study by Johns Hopkins researchers. After six months, those on the low-carb diet had lost more weight, and at a faster pace. But in both groups, when weight was lost—and especially when belly fat shrank—the arteries were able to expand better, allowing blood to travel more freely. The study shows that you don’t have to cut out all dietary fat to shrink belly fat. For heart health, simply losing weight and exercising seems to be key.
Many factors can cause your blood pressure to rise, and each factor may or may not require medication. Many people make lifestyle changes that lower their blood pressure without medication; especially for pre-hypertension and stage 1 of hypertension. Also, each time you take your blood pressure, make sure you are still and calm, sitting with both feet on the floor, arm supported on a flat surface, and you are measuring at the same time everyday. You can also take multiple readings in one sitting, but wait one minute between each reading. These steps will ensure you are providing your healthcare provider with the most accurate blood pressure reading!
The American Heart Association considers 120/80 to be a normal blood pressure reading. Unless you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure you may not realize anything is wrong so it is important to get tested each time you see your doctor, or more frequently if you have a family history of hypertension. Often, hypertension has no obvious symptoms, but it could be quietly causing damage and threatening your health. This condition overworks the heart and damages the walls of the blood vessels. If left untreated, it can lead to tears, ruptures, or increased plaque build-up in your heart, which increases your risk for heart failure, heart attack or stroke.
“I always recommend that people find something that they enjoy doing to stay in shape. For example, line dancing, walking outside, and riding a bike are all good ways to get active,” says Scott Parker, a health and fitness trainer and a national spokesperson for #GoRedGetFit — an online fitness challenge for women hosted by the AHA and Macy’s. “It’s also important to find other people you like doing the activity with, because that helps you stick with it.”
One of the easiest ways to manage your blood pressure is simply making healthy life choices such as eating low-sodium diet, committing to a regular exercise routine, and avoiding (excessive) alcohol. Smoking is one of the worst things that you can do to your cardiovascular system, and it’s important that you take steps to quit as soon as possible to avoid hypertension, even if you don’t yet suffer from it yet.
Get moving at least a little bit every day, with a standard recommendation of 30-60 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week. Get your heart pumping at a moderate intensity for a few times a week, and mix it up with some strength training. Because life happens, on the days when you can’t fit it in, try to build more activity into your day by parking further away, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or even just doing a quick sprint or two up and down the block. Every little bit helps.
Over a 12-year period, 174 patients diagnosed with mild to severe high blood pressure were seen at the Center for Conservative Therapy and were placed on a medically-supervised, water-only fasting regime. The treatment procedure included an average water-only fasting period of 10.6 days, followed by a supervised refeeding period of about one week with a whole, natural foods diet. The results of the study are summarized in Figure 2.
Caffeine can raise blood pressure by tightening blood vessels and magnifying the effects of stress, says James Lane, PhD, a Duke University researcher who studies caffeine and cardiovascular health. "When you're under stress, your heart starts pumping a lot more blood, boosting blood pressure," he says. "And caffeine exaggerates that effect." (Not sure whether you need to cut back? Here are 6 physical symptoms that mean you're drinking too much coffee.)