Reduce your fat and sugar intake: Maintaining a healthy weight for your body type helps keep blood pressure under control. It has been proven that losing excess weight can drastically lower blood pressure values. When obesity and hypertension are coupled together, it can lead to some dangerous long-term health effects that could eventually be fatal in the long run. It is estimated that about 36.5 Americans are obese, with the consumption of excessive amounts of sugar being the main culprit. It is important to make weight loss a priority when treating your high blood pressure.
Too much booze is known to raise blood pressure. But having just a little bit could do the opposite. Light to moderate drinking (defined as one drink or fewer per day) is associated with a lower risk for hypertension in women, according to research from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Moderate drinking could play a role in heart disease prevention too, studies show.
The calculated difference between the systolic and diastolic pressures is also of interest. If the difference is large (e.g. 170/85), it could be the sign of stiff arteries – often caused by heart disease. This means the blood vessels can’t dilate enough when the heart sends out a pulse, which forces the blood pressure to increase. (The walls can’t expand, so the pressure rises when the heart tries to pump the blood through.)
The heartening news is that most people can effectively control their blood pressure without the need for medications by following a healthy lifestyle like the Pritikin Program. “Those who still need medications usually require a lower dose and/or fewer drugs, thereby reducing their risk of suffering adverse side effects from the medications,” states Dr. Fruge.
What is considered low depends a bit on the person, their medical history, and the particular circumstances. It is also important to compare a person’s blood pressure to his or her “usual blood pressure.” A SBP of 102 is different in a young woman who usually has SBP 100-105, compared to an older person who has historically registered SBPs of 130-150.
Re BP: as noted in the article above, several expert groups recommend treating adults aged 60+ to a goal of SBP less than 150. So if you find that your SBP is often in the 150s or higher, then it would be reasonable to consider a medication to lower BP, especially since it sounds like you’ve been trying lifestyle treatments but your BP is still not low enough.
Loading up on potassium-rich fruits and vegetables is an important part of any blood pressure-lowering program, says Linda Van Horn, PhD, RD, a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Potassium encourages the kidneys to excrete more sodium through urination, and that sodium excretion can help lower blood pressure.
How low should you go? Aim to keep your sodium intake below 1,500 mg for healthy blood pressure, recommends the American Heart Association. That’s about half of what most Americans consume per day. Going easy on the saltshaker can help, but you’ll make a bigger impact by watching the sodium count in packaged or processed foods, Obarzanek says. (Pay extra attention to bread and rolls, pizza, soup, cold cuts, poultry, and sandwiches, which tend to pack the most salt.) Then try these other simple ways to slash your salt intake.
Elevating your feet will not lower blood pressure and will actually increase the blood pressure reading when your feet are higher than your heart. On the other hand, if you are doing activities to relieve stress such as yoga (which often elevates your legs, such as legs-up-the-wall pose), then over the long run, these stress reducing activities may help to decrease your blood pressure (but it is not the act of elevating the legs that is lowering the blood pressure it is the stress relieving activity).