Nearly half of all American adults have hypertension, which is high blood pressure. It’s nicknamed “the silent killer,” because it doesn’t have noticeable early warning signs, but high blood pressure can lead to serious health problems like heart attack and stroke. If you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension, it’s important to take it seriously to protect your health.
The good news is that hypertension is manageable. Kunal Patel, MD, and our team at NJ Cardiovascular Institute specialize in hypertension care, and we want to help you lower your risk of complications.
One of the best ways to manage hypertension is making certain lifestyle changes. So if you have high blood pressure, here are the top habits to drop right now.
Smoking is a major risk factor for hypertension, heart disease, and other cardiovascular diseases. Nicotine in cigarettes raises your blood pressure and increases your heart rate, which damages your blood vessels over time.
If you have hypertension, quitting smoking significantly lowers your risk of complications, and it can help keep your hypertension from getting worse.
2. Eating a lot of salt
Salt contains sodium, which may increase your blood pressure if you have hypertension. You should limit your sodium intake to no more than about 1500 milligrams per day, which equals about two-thirds of a teaspoon of table salt.
Most dietary sodium comes from processed foods, but the shaker and salt used in cooking contributes, too. Making small changes, like using herbs and spices instead of salt when you cook, can reduce your salt intake without compromising the flavor of your food.
3. Eating a lot of processed foods
Processed foods include things like chips, baked goods, pizza, candy, and soda. These options are often high in sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats, all of which can increase your blood pressure and make hypertension worse.
Switching from processed foods to whole foods can help you manage your hypertension. Try to eat a diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
4. Drinking too much alcohol
Alcohol can increase your blood pressure, and excessive drinking can cause hypertension or make it worse. For heart health, you should limit your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.
5. Living a sedentary lifestyle
Lack of physical activity is linked to hypertension and heart disease, but being physically active can help your lower blood pressure and improve overall health. That’s why we recommend getting at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week.
Getting active doesn’t have to be complicated, and it’s okay to start slowly. Try low-impact activities like walking, cycling, or swimming. Remember to talk with your healthcare team before starting any new exercise program.
6. Not (properly) managing stress
Everyone experiences stress from time to time, and high stress levels can increase your blood pressure. It’simportant to find healthy ways to manage stress, particularly if you have hypertension. Exercise helps relieve stress, and you can also try practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation, or taking up hobbies that you enjoy.
7. Not getting enough sleep
Sleep is essential for optimal health, and consistently not getting enough sleep can contribute to high blood pressure. To reduce the effects that lack of sleep has on your body, aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Establish healthy sleep habits — like having a nighttime routine and avoiding screens for at least an hour before bed — to improve your quality of sleep.
A hypertension diagnosis can be scary, but there’s a lot you can do to improve your health and lower your risk of complications. For more personalized tips to manage hypertension, book an appointment with Dr. Patel and our team.
Call one of our offices in Elizabeth, Lakewood, Paramus, and Secaucus, New Jersey, or send us a message online to get started.