If you’ve recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure, the thought of taking medication to keep it under tabs can be daunting. High blood pressure is defined as having a systolic blood pressure (SBP) ≥ 140 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) ≥ 90 mmHg. The prevalence of the condition in Malaysia alone is quite alarming– 1 in 3 Malaysians suffer from hypertension, and a whopping 17% of them are unaware they have the condition. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be managed quite effectively in many people by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Here are 7 natural ways for you to bring those numbers down to a healthy range.
1. Lose the extra kilos
Weight loss is one of the most effective changes to control blood pressure. It is recommended for overweight patients with hypertension to reduce at least 5% of their body weight. If adhered to, a healthy diet can result in a modest weight loss of between 3-9% of body weight – which ultimately translates to a lowering of blood pressure by 3-6 mmHg.
2. Watch your sodium intake
High salt intake can notably increase your chances of stroke and cardiovascular disease. In Malaysia, it is especially important to watch your salt intake– a daily recommended intake is: <1 1⁄4 teaspoons of salt or 3 teaspoons of monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Here’s a couple of ways you could decrease your salt consumption:
- Start reading food labels
- Do your research before dining out. Alternatively, request for no salt to be added to your dish– that means saying NO to precooked meals
- Replace salt with seasonings or spices free of sodium
- Use fresh produce, rather than packaged meats or frozen vegetables
3. Eat a healthy diet
A low-sodium diet aligned with the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH diet) – one which is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products that skimps on saturated and total fat – can significantly lower your blood pressure by 11 mmHg in hypertensive patients, or by 4 mmHg in individuals with normal but high BP. Keeping a food diary is your best bet to pinpointing where the high salt intake is coming from. Monitor your food intake for a week, and understand how, when and where, things are going awry.
4. Avoid taking alcohol as much as possible
A heavy and regular intake of alcohol can significantly increase blood pressure. For hypertensive patients who are heavy drinkers, it is advisable to reduce or stop the intake of alcohol altogether. A concerted effort to reduce one’s alcohol consumption can result in a substantial reduction in both systolic and diastolic pressure by 3.3 and 2 mmHg respectively.
5. Exercise regularly
Just 30 minutes of brisk walking a day for 5 days a week can reduce your blood pressure by 13 and 18 mmHg in systolic and diastolic pressure respectively– especially if you have high blood pressure. For hypertensive patients, aerobic exercise has a greater effect of reducing blood pressure than resistance training.
6. Stop smoking
Quitting smoking can improve your overall cardiovascular health. Every time you light up a cigarette, the nicotine in the cigarette causes your blood pressure and heart rate to be slightly elevated for several minutes after. Did you know that nicotine in cigarettes also narrows your arteries and hardens the walls of blood vessels– thus increasing the odds of a blood clot? Keep that image in mind the next time you pick up a cigarette.
7. Reduce your stress
While you can control various aspects of your physical health, it’s impossible to eliminate all the stressors in your life. What you can do is try to cope with them better:
- Manage your expectations
While it is important to plan your day and focus on your priorities, be mindful that some things are out of your control. Don’t beat yourself up when things go wrong– understand that you can’t dictate your circumstances but you can certainly manage your attitude towards them.
- Avoid stress-inducing events in your life
During the workweek, make it a point to wake up on time. Being late in rush hour can cause unnecessary stress. Sometimes, certain individuals in your life can be causing notable stress as well, unbeknownst to you. Make sure you’re with the right crowd.
- Make time for hobbies that you enjoy
While you may be busy at work all day, set aside an hour before bed for some alone time. Make time to just sit still and breathe deeply. Schedule activities you enjoy in your calendar. Remember– your work isn’t everything.
Taking steps to modify your lifestyle can result in remarkable improvements to your blood pressure. Especially in Malaysia, it is important to focus on reducing your weight and your salt intake. Lifestyle changes may not always have a notable effect for certain demographics, such as the elderly. However, a pivotal focus on reducing weight and salt consumption are applicable to individuals across all age groups. Natural interventions should always be part of the management of a person with hypertension. Lower your blood pressure to avoid health complications. Prevention is better than cure! Always see your doctor for help in managing your blood pressure, and if medication is needed, you should be compliant.