Tips to Lower Blood Pressure
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How to Reduce Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, like high blood glucose, is a medical condition that can be dramatically improved by the everyday decisions you make and the actions you take. You can do right by your body and enjoy better health with simple acts such as choosing healthful, low-sodium products at the grocery store and walking for 30 minutes each day.
"Research repeatedly shows that making one or more lifestyle changes, from eating more fruits and vegetables to walking more, lowers blood pressure," says Eva Obarzanek, Ph.D., MPH, R.D., research nutritionist at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "Any movement of mercury downward improves your odds of staying healthy."
Choose one or more of the following steps to start lowering your blood pressure now. Don't delay -- make a change at your next meal or take a 10-minute walk. Bonus: Some of these same steps can improve your blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides, too.
Quitting smoking is the first step on this list because health experts agree it's the most important lifestyle change to make.
Smoking tobacco does not directly cause high blood pressure, but it escalates the risk of heart and blood vessel diseases. That's added risk for people living with diabetes (PWDs), who already are prone to these problems. You'll likely make several quitting attempts before you quit for good, according to the 2008 government report "Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence."
Try this: Write out a smoking-cessation plan. A multiprong approach is more likely to succeed. For example, participate in a smoking-cessation program and take a medicine like Nicorette that helps to wean you from nicotine.
Lose a Few Pounds
"Losing even 10 pounds lowers blood pressure and is as effective as taking one blood pressure medicine, and is especially effective in people who are overweight," says nutrition consultant Marion J. Franz, R.D., CDE, a Diabetic Living editorial advisory board member.
Losing weight also brings other benefits, such as decreasing insulin resistance, says Jacqueline Craig, R.D., CDE, a research coordinator at the Cincinnati Veterans Administration Medical Center.
Try this: Craig suggests cutting calories by trimming the amount of fat you eat and adding fiber (more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains).
Cut Your Sodium Intake
Add up convenience foods, and your sodium total may mirror the American daily average: 4,000-6,000 mg. That's three to four times the recommendation for people with high blood pressure. "Don't let the tough-to-hit 1,500 mg mark discourage you -- any sodium reduction lowers blood pressure," says Jackie Boucher, R.D., CDE, vice president of education for the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation.
"I steer clear of store-bought salad dressing, cold cuts, and canned soup," says Juanita Noid, 62, PWD type 2, of Oxford, Georgia. Craig suggests limiting sodium to what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines as healthy -- no more than 800 mg for entrees and 480 mg for sides.
Try this: Purchase reduced-sodium ingredients and packaged foods. Drain and rinse canned vegetables. Ask restaurants to cook your order without added salt.
Use Less Salt
Salt, which contains sodium, causes the body to hold fluid and raise blood pressure. Some people are salt-sensitive, especially adults who are older than 50, African-American, or have high blood pressure or diabetes. Research from DASH, a study that looked at dietary approaches to lower blood pressure, showed that "salt-sensitive people had an even greater decrease in their blood pressure when following this eating plan," says nutritionist Jackie Boucher. Just 1/4 teaspoon of salt contains 575 mg of sodium.
Sodium and salt are different substances, but it's important to limit both. Table salt, or sodium chloride, is about 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride. A food's total sodium content includes other sodium-base ingredients, such as baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), preservatives (such as sodium metabisulphite), and flavor enhancers (such as MSG, or monosodium glutamate).
What we eat daily
- Most Americans consume 4,000-6,000 mg of sodium (about 1 tablespoon salt)
- Nearly 75 percent of sodium consumed comes from processed and restaurant foods
Daily sodium targets
- Most adults without high blood pressure: 2,400 mg (this is the amount manufacturers use to calculate the percent of daily value shown on food labels)
- People with high blood pressure, African-American adults, and adults age 50 and older: 1,500 mg
Try this: Remove the saltshaker from your table. "Season foods with a variety of herbs, spices, freshly ground black pepper, lemon and lime, mustards, and vinegars," Boucher says. These flavorful seasonings pack on the flavor without adding salt.
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Two major studies, DASH and PREMIER, showed that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables lowers blood pressure. "It may be their superior shot of potassium, but researchers aren't sure about the specific nutrients in fruits, vegetables, and dairy foods that lower blood pressure," says nutritionist Eva Obarzanek. Adequate potassium can blunt the effect of too much sodium. Americans tend to fall short of the recommended daily 4,700 mg of potassium.
Try this: Eat 2.5 cups of vegetables each day (especially high-potassium broccoli, spinach, and tomatoes). Eat 2 cups of fruit (especially high-potassium oranges, cantaloupe, and bananas).
Treat Sleep Apnea
This sleep disorder causes a person to stop breathing repeatedly while asleep. This can lead to high blood pressure and other problems. "Recent studies show that 50 percent of people with type 2 diabetes have sleep apnea," says Virginia Zamudio Lange, R.N., CDE, a Diabetic Living editorial advisory board member. Signs include snoring and/or being tired or drifting off during wake time. Proper treatment -- using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine for at least four hours a night -- can lower blood pressure and improve other health parameters, such as blood glucose.
Try this: To know for sure whether you have sleep apnea, get screened by a physician -- especially if you have type 2 or are overweight.
Drink Alcohol Responsibly
"The general guideline: Drink alcohol in moderation. One drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men holds true for people with blood pressure problems, too," says nutritionist Marion Franz. When people consume more than three drinks a day, blood pressure increases. As heavy drinkers drink less, however, blood pressure decreases.
Try this: Swap healthful, hydrating water for that second or third alcoholic beverage. You'll save calories, too. For the feel of a cocktail sans alcohol, garnish carbonated water or diet soda with a slice of lemon or add a splash of cranberry juice.
Choose Low-Fat Dairy Foods
Another source of potassium is dairy foods, particularly milk and yogurt. People in the DASH and PREMIER studies consumed two to three servings (8 ounces) of dairy foods each day. Dairy foods also are high in calcium, which may play a role in blood pressure control. Most American adults fail to consume the daily recommendation of calcium.
Try this: Include more low-fat milk in your diet. Try fat-free milk on whole grain cereal, yogurt with lunch, calcium-fortified fruit juice in moderation, or 1.5 ounces of reduced-fat cheese on a sandwich.
Get Physical Activity
Regular exercise makes your heart stronger, which means the heart pumps more blood with less effort and force on your arteries. "Engaging in regular moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, for at least 30 minutes most days can reduce systolic blood pressure by 4-9 mmHg," says nutritionist Jackie Boucher.
Start slowly, adding just a few minutes a day. Soon enough, a daily walk can become a habit. Eleanor, 54, of Long Island, New York, has type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. She added walking to her day to help manage both conditions. "A pedometer and my Latin tunes quickly became my faithful walking companions," she says.
Try this: Carve out 30 minutes a day to move your body. This can be as simple as walking (wear a pedometer to count your steps) or marching in place during your favorite television show. It's also OK to do shorter bursts of movement that add up to 30 minutes.
Tips to Lower Blood Glucose
You can achieve lower blood glucose numbers! And doing so can help you live a happier, healthier life with diabetes. Feel better and reduce your risk of diabetes complications when you lower your blood sugar levels to your target range. We can help you get there.