6 Heart Health Tips for People With High Blood Pressure
We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Heart disease remains the number one killer of men and women, and high blood pressure contributes to heart attacks and strokes. This rule applies across ethnic, gender and socioeconomic lines — it’s the leading risk of death for men and women of any race.
However, nearly half of all American adults live with hypertension. Globally, around 30% of people do. The high rates here often involve lifestyle factors, such as dietary intake, stress and activity levels. Fortunately, that means non-medical interventions can lower your numbers and risk.
What can you do if you’re one of the many living with this condition and concerned with their chances of disease? Here are six heart health tips for people with high blood pressure.
1. Get a Grip on Stress
Could your ticket to solving heart disease lie in your brain? This organ does govern every other in your body, and recent research out of Australia suggests the answer may be yes. When you experience stress, your body’s alarm system kicks into gear, ramping up adrenaline and cortisol production that boosts your heart rate and pressure. Normally, it decreases when the threat passes.
However, the prolonged, inescapable stress — like the kind that comes from struggling to pay the bills every month — can cause your brain’s wiring to remain in the on position. The constant increase in pulse and pressure increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The answer? You have to mitigate stress, which can sound more easily said than done. However, adjusting your mindset and habits is necessary for your survival.
What can you do? Here are some free strategies you can implement for free to keep your stress hormones in check:
- Move it, move it: Exercise is one of the best stress remedies because it lets your body do what it’s designed for in times of crisis — fight or flight. Your brain doesn’t know if you’re fleeing a bear or running on a treadmill. Your cortisol levels still decrease after you finish your 30-minute sweat session.
- Breathe: Stress makes your breathing rapid and shallow. Intentional deep breathing activates the parasympathetic side of your nervous system, the half that tells you to relax.
- Take a breather: Do you feel like you live for everyone else? Maybe you can’t afford a vacation, but you can budget 30 minutes a day to do something you love, like practicing yoga, cooking healthy meals or engaging in another hobby that makes you smile and forget about outside pressures for a while.
2. Get Sodium Savvy
Salt is one of the biggest culprits behind high blood pressure, and far too many Americans eat a high-sodium diet. This stuff pulls water into your veins, increasing the load on your heart.
The problem is, skipping the shaker might not be enough. Why? Many pre-packaged convenience foods contain excessive levels of salt to enhance flavor. Check out the label on a can of soup sometime — many have half or more of your RDA in a single serving.
Plus, the guidelines of 2,300 milligrams a day established by the FDA already exceed what the American Heart Association recommends for people with existing high blood pressure. They suggest individuals with this condition limit their intake to no more than 1,500 milligrams daily.
The bottom line? Learn to read labels. Furthermore, toss your salt shaker or experiment with one of the lower sodium/potassium seasoning blends.
3. Get Wise About Heart Healthy Fats
Although the FDA banned trans fats in 2015, these oils may linger in some convenience items still on shelves, thanks to preservatives. Also, remember that some products may contain up to half a gram per serving. You should check labels for the words “partially hydrogenated oil” to determine if a product still contains trace amounts.
However, you do need fat in your diet — and some are healthier than others. For example, olive oil has an outstanding reputation for being heart-healthy, thanks to the high content of monounsaturated fatty acids that reduce your risk of disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids are likewise critical for heart and brain health. They help lower triglyceride levels and prevent plaque formation, which hardens your arteries. You can find them in the following foods:
- Fatty fish
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
Finally, you should avoid the saturated fats found in animal meats. What about coconut oil? Although it is high in saturated fat, it also helps raise your HDL or “good” cholesterol. Many doctors advise using it sparingly.
4. Get Friendly With Your Local Farmer’s Market
Why is it wise to shop at your local farmers market? For one, you can find fresh, organic produce for far less than many grocery stores. However, that’s not the only benefit you’ll get from a diet rich in the leafy green and colorful stuff.
Vegetables contain high potassium levels, which helps decrease blood pressure. Getting more of this mineral in your body helps counteract the effects of the occasional high-sodium meal. Why not dress your salads in flavorful, heart-healthy olive oil dressings or even salsa to eliminate the need for the salt shaker to add flavor?
Getting more colorful fruits and vegetables in your life also increases your antioxidant intake. Why does that matter? These substances help fight the damaging effects of free radicals that can harm every tissue in your body, including the cardiac. They also ensure sufficient intake of the vitamins and minerals you need to maintain optimal health.
5. Banish the Bottle and Butts
You might have heard that a glass of red wine is good for your heart. While moderate consumption has some benefits, the problem is that most people don’t stop at one drink. Once you cross that threshold, you start to damage your cardiovascular system.
Why? Even a single drink temporarily increases your blood pressure, although the effects quickly wear off. However, repeated binge drinking — more than four drinks in two hours — can result in long-term increases.
Smoking has no health benefits — even one is too many. These products contain chemicals that can damage your heart and blood vessels and cause artery-clogging clots. Such a blockage can lead to a heart attack and death.
Get in Touch With Your Doctor
Some people follow the above advice and still struggle with high blood pressure. If you suspect you fall into this category, please talk with your doctor.
Your doctor can prescribe medications to help you manage your numbers. There are several categories of remedies, and they can help locate the one that will work best for you, including:
- ACE inhibitors
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers
- Calcium channel blockers
- Alpha-2 receptor agonists
- Central agonists
- Peripheral adrenergic inhibitors
Your doctor may also decide a combination approach is best. You may need to try more than one medication to find your perfect fit.
Heart Healthy Tips
If you have hypertension, you run a higher risk of the leading cause of death. Fortunately, you can mitigate your chances of developing a fatal disease.
Implement these six heart health tips for people with high blood pressure into your life. If your holistic self-help interventions fail, talk to your doctor.