Blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day, so measuring it in the morning might yield a different number than, say, the afternoon. Conditions like stress and lack of sleep can also fluctuate blood pressure. Visiting your doctor might feel nerve-wracking, which can elevate your blood pressure and create a condition called white coat hypertension.
Our bodies react to tension by releasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline into the blood. These hormones can raise your heart rate and constrict blood vessels, causing your blood pressure to spike. But slow breathing and meditative practices such as qigong, yoga, and tai chi can help keep stress hormones—and your blood pressure—in check, Williams says. (And if you haven't heard, health benefits of meditation include reduced inflammation, natural pain relief, and more.) Start with five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night and build up from there. The breathing exercise above is designed to help you fall asleep fast.
“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.”