Knowing what changes to make is only the first step; following through in sustainable, practical ways is the tougher aspect of healthy living. This is where health coaching, one of the fastest-growing professional fields, can make all the difference. Many patients know what diet and lifestyle changes are needed, but they have trouble following through day to day. A health coach can provide the more frequent support and accountability that a general healthcare provider cannot.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 75 million Americans have high blood pressure. Many risk factors for high blood pressure are out of your control, such as age, family history, gender, and race. But there are also factors you can control, such as exercise and diet. A diet that can help control blood pressure is rich in potassium, magnesium, and fiber and lower in sodium.
The causes are most often some combination of clogged “pipes” and excessive salt in the diet. Lifestyle changes, such as appropriate diet and exercise, are among the most effective treatment strategies for high blood pressure. Relaxation, meditation, and otherwise “taking it easy” are not effective solutions, as valuable as such strategies may be for your psychological well-being.
Reduce the stress in your life. Long-term stress can lead to high blood pressure. There are small lifestyle changes you can make to both combat stress and to manage the effects of it in healthy ways. Exercise, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, practicing yoga, meditation, or deep breathing, meditating, praying, journaling, laughing, listening to music, spending time with family and friends, and playing with animals can all help reduce your stress and lower blood pressure. Learn about more tips for reducing stress.
There are many popular medical myths about high blood pressure. For example, many physicians believe that high blood pressure is an “inevitable consequence of aging;” that the “only viable treatment option for high blood pressure patients is medication”; that high blood pressure patients must take their medications “for the rest of their lives”; and, worst of all, that high blood pressure medications are “safe and effective.”
Ocean Robbins is the author of 31-Day Food Revolution: Heal Your Body, Feel Great, and Transform Your World (Grand Central Life & Style, February 5, 2019). He is the CEO and co-founder of the 500,000+ member Food Revolution Network. He's served as the adjunct professor for Chapman University. And he's received numerous awards, including the national Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service and the Freedom's Flame Award. Ocean Robbins
In most cases where high blood pressure is diagnosed, the cause remains unclear. One review paper in the International Journal of Hypertension explains that this accounts for around 90% of all hypertension diagnosis and is usually referred to as essential hypertension. Secondary hypertension is diagnosed when a cause can be identified. Potential causes of secondary hypertension may include:
National guidelines recommend not getting more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (about 1 teaspoon of table salt). The limit is 1,500 milligrams a day for some people, depending on age and other things. By staying on a sodium-restricted diet, your systolic blood pressure (top number) may drop two to eight points. Salt-restricted diets can also help enhance the effects of most blood pressure medications.
All medications come with a risk of side effects, so why take them if you don’t have to? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about seven out of 10 U.S. adults with high blood pressure use medications to treat their condition. But what many people don’t realize is that you can help control your blood pressure naturally by changing a few daily habits.