What goes up must come down.
That’s certainly true if you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure and you want to protect your health. If it’s not lowered, high blood pressure — what doctors call hypertension — can trigger some serious health problems, including heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, and vision loss.
“Reassuringly, however, you have the power to control your blood pressure if it’s not in a healthy range,” says Philip Palutsis, MD, a family practice physician with the Rush Oak Park Physicians Group Anchor.
Changes in the way you eat and live can bring down your pressure and help you avoid the health problems that too often accompany high blood pressure. Palutsis recommends the following list of healthy habits — ones that are essential even if you already take medicine to manage your blood pressure.
Trim down if you’re overweight
Blood pressure rises as weight increases. But you don’t have to become model thin to see an improvement in your blood pressure.
“Losing only 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight can lower blood pressure,” Palutsis says.
A diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol can help control blood pressure. One such eating plan is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which was shown to quickly lower blood pressure in research studies. Ask your doctor for details.
Go easy on salt
Limiting salt can also help control blood pressure. “Start by taking the salt shaker off your table,” Palutsis advises.
Flavor food with herbs and spices when cooking. And eat more fresh foods rather than salty, processed ones, such as chips and frozen dinners.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation
For men that means a maximum of two drinks daily; for women, a maximum of one. Drinking too much boosts blood pressure.
Don’t light up
Because you have high blood pressure, you already have a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke. Smoking adds to your risk. And that makes high blood pressure and lighting up an especially dangerous combination.
Thirty minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week can help decrease blood pressure. Take your walking shoes out of the closet and put them to good use.
Finally, take some deep breaths.
“Too much stress in your life may contribute to high blood pressure,” Palutsis says.
So do your best to ease stress — for example, by learning to say no to requests for your help and time if you typically overextend yourself. Exercise is also a wonderful stress buster.
Take control, get help
Remember, you can take control of high blood pressure. To find a doctor to help keep your blood pressure under control, call (708) 660-INFO (4636) or visit Find a Doctor.