Blood pressure refers to the force of your blood pushing against your artery walls as it flows throughout your body. High blood pressure, or hypertension, results from too much force, which can damage your arteries and lead to life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and stroke.
How blood pressure is measured
Your blood pressure consists of two numbers: the systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number). These numbers are determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.
Systolic reading: When your heart beats, it pushes blood through your arteries to the rest of your body. This is your systolic blood pressure.
- If you are younger than 60, normal systolic pressure is below 140.
- If you are older than 60, normal systolic pressure is below 150.
Diastolic reading: Your diastolic blood pressure refers to the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.
- A normal diastolic blood pressure is lower than 90.
- Even if your diastolic number is below 90, you can still have high blood pressure if the systolic reading is above 140.
10 things you can do to lower your blood pressure without medication
Here are 10 important lifestyle changes you can make without resorting to prescription drugs.
1. Lose weight if you’re overweight. If you’re overweight, losing even 5-10 pounds can reduce your blood pressure.
2. Exercise regularly. Regular physical activity—at least 40 minutes 3-4 times a week—can lower your blood pressure significantly.
3. Eat a healthy diet. Eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, and low in saturated fat and cholesterol, can lower your blood pressure.
4. Reduce sodium (salt) in your diet. Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can reduce your blood pressure.
5. Limit your alcohol consumption. Alcohol can raise your blood pressure, even if you’re healthy. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
6. Quit smoking. Smoking can increase your blood pressure by damaging your blood vessel walls and narrowing your arteries. However, quitting smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal.
7. Cut back on caffeine. Caffeine temporarily raises your blood pressure.
8. Reduce your stress. Stress is a major contributor to high blood pressure, particularly if you react to stress by eating unhealthy foods, drinking and/or smoking.
9. Monitor your blood pressure at home and see your doctor regularly. Taking your blood pressure regularly can help you keep up-to-date with your numbers, reveal if your lifestyle changes are working, and alert you and your doctor to potential health complications.
10. Get good, restful sleep. Your blood pressure lowers when you’re sleeping and can increase if you don’t sleep well.
Risk factors for high blood pressure
- Family history
- Being overweight or obese
- Not being physically active
- Using tobacco
- Too much sodium in your diet
- Too little potassium in your diet
- Drinking too much alcohol
- High levels of stress
- Chronic conditions
Speak to your physician if you think you may have high blood pressure
He/she can help you make lifestyle changes to bring it down.