Having hypertension usually necessitates the need to be on blood pressure medication for life to achieve adequate blood control. Sometimes, more than one blood pressure pill is required to control hypertension. People dread the need to rely on one or more pills and sometimes seek for non-medical ways to control blood pressure. Taking these pills have been shown to be effective with a well-established side effect profile, which your doctor can monitor for possible change in medication. Notwithstanding, there are lifestyle changes that could limit or temporarily eliminate the need for pills.
1. DASH diet: This stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It emphasizes vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy foods with moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts. Low sodium (salt) intake is also part of the recommendation. By following the DASH diet long term, systolic blood pressure can drop by as much as 8 – 14mmHg. Reduction in the occurrence of osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes are additional benefits.
2. Exercise: Regular exercise of about 30 mins done at least 5 times a week is recommended. This include jogging, cycling, skipping, swimming and even weight lifting. Exercise should be such that you get almost breathless. It’s important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again. Discuss with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Day-to-day stresses do not qualify as exercise and should be cut down as much as possible.
3. Weight loss: With a proper diet and regular exercise comes weight loss. Your waistline is a good pointer to your cardiovascular risk. For men, it should be less than 40 inches (102 cm), while a value less than 36 inches (89 cm) is ideal for women. In addition to improving your blood pressure, weight loss reduces your risk for other illnesses like diabetes, cancer and sleep apnea.
4. Quit smoking: Smoking cigarette is known to worsen hypertension. This is due to its nicotine content, which also thickens and narrows your blood vessels in addition to increasing your heart rate. The major concern with hypertension, especially when uncontrolled, is the damage it causes to your blood vessels. Smoking remarkable worsens this damage increasing your risk for stroke, heart attack, kidney failure etc.
5. Alcohol reduction: Excessive alcohol use leads to hypertension, in addition to other illnesses like liver failure. As a rule, no more than 2 bottles of small beer, 2 glasses of wine or 2 shots of distilled liquor (spirit) should be consumed daily by men. Half of this quantity is the recommended maximum for women. At low doses, as recommended above, alcohol has been shown to have some cardiovascular and neurological benefits.
6. Regular follow-up: If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, you need to regularly check your blood pressure and see your doctor for review. With good drug compliance and following the recommendations above, your blood pressure is likely to be controlled or even drop. Therefore, changes in your medication might need to be made. Also, if your blood pressure is still uncontrolled, further evaluation by your doctor would be necessary.