Living Healthy With High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure effects a lot of people. It is estimated that 1 in 3 Americans have high blood pressure and many of them don't even know it. As Americans we are used to treating high blood pressure (and a whole host of other things) with medication. However, lifestyle changes can help you lower your blood pressure and maintain it at a healthy level. Most of these lifestyle changes are highly recommended for a long, healthy, and productive life anyway. So, what are you waiting for?
Identifying Risk Factors
There are many risk factors for high blood pressure. Some of them we can control, while others are something we just need to be aware of. Having a good idea if you are at risk for high blood pressure is something that is always a good idea. Even if you don't have it now, you could develop it later. Some of these things aren't things you can change...others are things you can work on!
- Family history. High blood pressure, like many things often runs in the family. I have it, my mom has it, and her mom has it. It is that simple. Knowing if you have a family history of high blood pressure is important.
- Overweight. A lot of things can be associated with being overweight. High blood pressure is one of them. It doesn't mean that just because you are overweight you have high blood pressure, nor does it mean everyone with high blood pressure is overweight. But if you are overweight it is a good thing to know that you are more likely to have or end up with high blood pressure.
- Lack of Activity. We all know that we should be exercising, but that doesn't mean that we all do it. If you don't have regular exercise in your life you are more likely to end up with high blood pressure.
- Alcohol and Smoking. Drinking an excess of alcohol or smoking are also things that increase your risk of getting high blood pressure.
- Diet. What we eat is often a concern. First most of us need to eat less sodium and we need to consume a balanced diet. Most of us know whether or not our diets are good for us.
- Medications. If you are risk for high blood pressure or have high blood pressure you should talk to your doctor about the medication you are taking. This includes oral contraceptives.
Often times watching what you eat and changing your diet a little can make a huge difference in living a healthy lifestyle and living as healthy as possible with high blood pressure. In fact, with lifestyle changes you can even control your high blood pressure.
Limit sodium- Americans (and a few other cultures) consume way too much sodium (salt) in their diet. There are several ways to limit your sodium intake. First it is a good idea to limit the prepackaged and processed foods. It is also a good idea to avoid junk food and only consume small amounts of these items. The final step to limiting sodium is to use sea salt. A good sea salt is good for your body, provides more flavor then table salt, and lets you use less with the same results.
Increase fruits and vegetables- Research shows that fruits and vegetables are good for the heart and over all nutrition. They include lots of nutrients and fiber. All in all, increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables is definitely a good thing.
Limit fats, sugars, and other not so good for yous. We are all fairly well informed about what we should and should not be eating. For most of us, that doesn't stop us from reaching for a second doughnut from the doughnut box in the morning. Limiting high fat foods, sugars, and other "junk" food is a great way to help lower your blood pressure.
Watch how much you eat. Often times it isn't what we eat, but how much we eat that can be a problem. Portion sizes are out of control and choosing smaller meals is a great way to help out our health. Limit yourself to small meals. Eat slower and learn to feel when you are full. This will help you maintain a healthier lifestyle.
Choose whole grain. We are a processed society and as one we eat a lot of processed white flour foods. We tend to like white bread more then wheat, regular pasta, and even white rice. However, choosing whole grain or making your diet more "brown" friendly will go a long way in a healthier you. Whole wheat breads, pastas, and brown rice are all ways to begin. They are healthier for you and available in a ton of different options!
Making small changes in your diet is a good start. You don't have to become the perfect health food eater to see the benefits either. Take it one day at a time and work on making smarter choices.
Tips for Drinking More Water
So you tell me you don't like drinking water. Well, lets face it, you aren't alone. Many of us learn early on that there are better drinks out there then water. But, because water really is important, it is a good idea to find ways to make sure you are getting enough. Here are a few tips for getting more water in your life.
- Get a water bottle. Often it is easier to drink more water when you have a clear and measurable goal. Drinking from a water bottle can give you this gaol. It can also help you take water with you where ever you go and drink it all throughout the day.
- Need more flavor? You can add a dash of lemon or lime juice for extra flavor in your water. It doesn't have to be a ton to make the taste of water more pleasant. If that just won't do for you add a splash of your favorite juice. This way it is still mostly water, but has a better flavor.
- Drink all day. By drinking all day you make it easier to get in all your water. You don't have to drink a ton at one specific time of day and you don't have to feel over full on water.
Watch What You Drink!
Water, Water, Water, and More Water. We know we should drink water, but most of us don't. Water is really important for a healthy lifestyle. You should consume 8-10 glasses of water each and every day. Additionally, many other beverages that people count, just don't compare. So, it isn't a good idea to count your ten cups of coffee as your water source.
Limit Drinks That Are BAD For You. Soda....whether diet or not is bad for you. I am not saying eliminate it from your life, but it is a good idea to limit how much you take in. Contrary to the V8 commercials...drinking a lot of juice is a bad idea as well. Stick to one or two glasses a day if you really like juice. Coffee and tea are okay, but be careful about what you put in there.
Alcohol. Sure, many of us enjoy drinking now and then. However, regular consumption of alcohol is a bad idea with high blood pressure. It is best to limit it to the occasional drink and to make sure that we don't get carried away.
Drinking water all day can also limit the amount of food you eat. Most people can't tell the difference between thirst and hunger until they are really thirsty. You may be eating when you should be drinking!
Whenever we talk about getting healthy (including living a healthy lifestyle to help lower blood pressure) we have to talk about exercise. Exercise is a vital part of being and getting healthy. You don't have to join a gym, spend a lot of money, get a personal trainer, or start jogging 10 miles a day. You just need to get moving. There are a lot of great choices out there for you to do. Ideally you should aim for exercising 30 minutes, 3 times a week (or more). You will find that this can make you feel tons better, give you more energy, help you relax more, and help you be less stressed. Here are a few easy and inexpensive options (of course you can get a gym membership or join a class if you want to).
- Walk. Walking is great for your health. It is something you can do no matter what shape you are in and it's free. You can walk in your neighborhood or go to a mall or other building where they walk (many hospitals let you walk and some government buildings).
- Exercise Videos. There are a ton of options out there for picking up an exercise DVD. You can even find them for $10 or less. Try out a few and you might just be amazed at what you find!
- Swimming. Whether you have a local pool or a nearby lake, swimming can be a great way to get started on exercise.
A Note On Habits
It should be noted that changing your lifestyle is about changing your habits a little at a time. Habits take a long time to make and often to break. You will want to give yourself lots of time to make new, healthy habits. Realize that it takes about six weeks to form a good habit or to break a bad one. Be easy on yourself and don't give up just because it is hard!
Research shows that there are a lot of different supplements that can help you lower your blood pressure. Some of these include vitamin C, calcium, fish oil, ginger, potassium, and garlic. Of course, you should always talk to your doctor before buying supplements. Here is a good article if you are interested in going this route: How to Use Supplements for Heart Health.
Lifestyle changes usually go a long way to helping people live healthy lives even with high blood pressure. But there are times when medication is a must. Talk to your doctor about your options and about trying lifestyle changes first. You may want to take medications at first and then lower them later on. While medications aren't always a good answer, they can help, especially between the time that your new lifestyle really kicks in and right now.
A healthy lifestyle can go miles toward a healthier you. Making small changes can make a huge difference and let you live a more complete life that lasts loads longer. You don't have to become a health nut, but you might want to consider a few of your choices.