In the United States, nearly half of adults (108 million, or 45%) have high blood pressure or hypertension.1 Of those 108 million people, only about 1 in 4 have their condition under control.1
When blood pressure is poorly controlled or goes undiagnosed, it can significantly increase your risk of heart, brain, kidney, and other diseases. Some factors that increase one’s likelihood of developing high blood pressure are predetermined and can not be changed, such as age, race, and family history. However, the good news is that there are other risk factors that can be controlled, including what you eat, your weight, and how much you exercise.2
Here are 5 changes you can make to help lower your blood pressure while also focusing on overall health and wellbeing.
1. Weight Management
Being overweight or obese puts you at increased risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, all of which can also increase your risk for heart disease. Therefore, working toward or maintaining a healthy weight is important for both the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure.7
If you’re interested in losing weight to lower your blood pressure, a registered dietitian can help you to follow a safe and sustainable plan that works for you. Remember, real weight loss takes time. There is no quick fix!
2. Create a Balanced Plate
Adopting a healthy eating pattern is an integral step in lowering your blood pressure. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating pattern is a proven and effective intervention to reduce blood pressure.3
This plan encourages eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish, beans, and nuts. These foods and food groups, which are low in saturated fat and rich in dietary fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, have been shown to promote overall heart health.4
Additionally, the DASH eating plan recommends to minimize foods that are high in saturated fats, sodium, and added sugars. These include highly processed foods, fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, sweets, and sugar-sweetened beverages should be limited.6
3. Reduce Sodium Intake
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the average American eats approximately 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium, or salt, per day – more than double the AHA’s recommended limit of 1,500 mg per day.8
Your intake of high sodium foods and blood pressure are directly correlated. If you have high blood pressure, studies show that even a small reduction in sodium (salt) intake can lower blood pressure and promote heart health.6
When thinking about grocery shopping and meal planning, choose foods that are low in salt. Here are some helpful tips:
- Check the nutrition facts label. Pay attention to serving size, the amount of sodium per serving, and the number of servings in the item. Compare sodium levels and choose the version with the lowest sodium content.
- Limit processed foods that tend to have excess sodium. When buying canned, packaged, or frozen foods, choose versions that have “no salt added,” “low sodium,” or “reduced sodium” listed on the packaging.
- Flavor your food with herbs, spices, lemon, lime, or salt-free seasoning.
- Try to eat more whole foods and prepare meals at home – this will give you control of how much salt is added.
In addition to adequate nutrition and healthy eating patterns, physical activity is one of the most important things you can incorporate into your routine to control high blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure, regular physical activity, which translates to about 150 minutes a week, can lower blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg.9 Try combining everyday chores with physical activity, like walking, gardening, swimming, or dancing, to make it fun and enjoyable. Exercising with a friend or family member can also help you to stay motivated and committed. It is important to always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program or increasing the intensity of your exercise.
5. Stress Management
Although more research is needed to determine the correlation between stress and blood pressure, preliminary studies have shown that chronic stress may contribute to high blood pressure.9 Additionally, people often deal with intermittent stress by engaging in unhealthy habits, such as binge eating, drinking excess alcohol, or smoking, all of which may contribute to high blood pressure.
There are many reasons an individual may experience stress. Identifying and addressing the root cause(s) can be helpful in order to effectively reduce or cope with stressors in a healthy way. It is important to focus on the positives, practice gratitude, and take time to relax and do activities that make you happy.
Lowering your blood pressure and working towards a healthier lifestyle takes time, effort, and support. Season’s dedicated team of registered dietitians are here to help you every step of the way.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Estimated Hypertension Prevalence, Treatment, and Control Among U.S. Adults. https://millionhearts.hhs.gov/data-reports/hypertension-prevalence.html. Published 2021. Accessed October 11, 2021.
- World Health Organization. Hypertension. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hypertension. Published August 25, 2021. Accessed October 11, 2021.
- Filippou, CD, Tsioufis, CP, Thomopoulos, CG, et al. Dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet and blood pressure reduction in adults with and without hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Adv Nutr 2020;11(5): 1150-1160. doi:10.1093/advances/nmaa041.
- Salehi-Abargouei, A, Maghsoudi, Z, Shirani, F, Azadbakht, L. Effects of dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH)-style diet on fatal or nonfatal cardiovascular diseases — incidence: a systematic review and meta-analysis on observational prospective studies. Nutrition 2013;29(4):611-618. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2012.12.018.
- The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Publications and Resources. Making the Move to Dash. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/all-publications-and-resources/making-move-dash. Published 2021. Accessed October 11, 2021.
- The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Description of the DASH Eating Plan. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/dash-eating-plan. Published 2021. Accessed October 11, 2021.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/hbp_low.pdf. Published May 2003. Accessed October 11, 2021.
- American Heart Association. 9 Out of 10 Americans Eat Too Much Sodium. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium/9-out-of-10-americans-eat-too-much-sodium-infographic. Published 2021. Accessed October 11, 2021.
- Mayo Clinic. 10 Ways to Control High Blood Pressure Without Medication. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20046974. Published February 24, 2021. Accessed October 11, 2021.