10 Lifestyle Habits for Healthy Blood Pressure

Sick,Young,Black,Man,Checking,Blood,Pressure,With,Modern,Tonometer

According to a 2023 American Heart Association report, nearly half of Americans aged 20 and older have high blood pressure (hypertension). Many people don’t even realize they have it–and just as many don’t take steps to manage or prevent it. 

Arming yourself with knowledge and being proactive is essential. Let’s explore 10 lifestyle habits for healthy blood pressure–but first, we’ll discuss what constitutes optimal levels.

What is a healthy blood pressure?

The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association define healthy blood pressure for most adults as 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or lower.  

Consistently exceeding 130/80 mm Hg raises your risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Eye damage
  • Dementia
  • Stroke

If your blood pressure falls between 120/80 and 130/80 mm Hg and you have additional risk factors for heart disease, you may want to start taking steps to lower it–long before you have symptoms.

Why is high blood pressure a problem?

Experts call high blood pressure the “silent killer” because it typically shows no symptoms. It can, however, cause serious damage to your body–particularly the heart–over time. Poor heart health also increases your risk of severe illness from viral infections. 

While some unavoidable factors like family history and age contribute to heightened risks of hypertension, you can still protect yourself effectively with natural, healthy lifestyle habits.

10 Lifestyle habits for healthy blood pressure

To prevent or manage hypertension, consider these lifestyle tips from experts at The American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s The Heart Truth program:

Know where you stand.

Experts advise everyone aged 3 and up to have their blood pressure checked at least once a year by a healthcare provider. For the most accurate reading, follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid exercising, consuming caffeine, and smoking 30 minutes beforehand. These can elevate blood pressure, causing an inaccurate reading. 
  • Right before your test, use the restroom. A full bladder can put pressure on your kidneys and blood vessels, potentially increasing your reading by 10 to 15 points.
  • During the test, position your arm at heart level on the table, keeping both feet flat on the floor. This position aligns the blood pressure cuff with your heart for more precise measurement. 
  • Avoid talking during the test. It can add as many as 10 points to your result. 

Eat a heart-healthy, balanced diet. 

One of the best natural treatments for hypertension is following a heart-healthy diet. Eating plans like Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and the Mediterranean Diet emphasize nutritious foods that work wonders for blood pressure, as well as other bodily systems. 

These diets primarily include:

  • Fruits and vegetables 
  • Whole grains like whole wheat and oats
  • Lean protein like fish, poultry, and beans
  • Moderate amounts of low-fat dairy
  • Reduced sodium with herbs used for flavor

If changing your diet feels overwhelming, start gradually by making small, manageable changes–such as adding extra vegetables to every meal. This will get you on the right track and make a big difference in your cardiovascular health. 

Related:   8 High Blood Pressure Natural Remedies To Try

Move your body more.

Exercise supports healthy blood pressure by strengthening your heart and increasing blood vessel flexibility. Aim for at least 2.5 hours of physical activity each week.

If it’s easier, break your workouts into shorter segments, doing:

  • Three 10-minute sessions daily, or 
  • One 30-minute session five days a week

Remember, any level of physical activity is better than none and will help keep your blood pressure in check.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Being overweight can force your heart to work harder to supply blood to your body, elevating pressure on blood vessel walls–eventually breaking down collagen and stiffening blood vessels. 

But you don’t have to torture yourself until you’re rail-thin. Research shows that losing just 3-5% of your body weight can significantly improve blood pressure. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, shedding 6-10 pounds can make a big difference. 

Keep your stress in check.

Stress indirectly contributes to high blood pressure through the release of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones trigger a “fight or flight” response that increases your risk of hypertension by:

  • Raising heart rate
  • Narrowing blood vessels
  • Slowing metabolism
  • Promoting fat storage, a major hypertension risk factor 

Chronic stress can also drive habits that exacerbate high blood pressure, like:

  • Unhealthy eating
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Substance abuse

So prioritize stress management. Consider science-backed methods, such as:

  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Time in nature
  • Relaxing hobbies like knitting or gardening
  • Support from a psychotherapist, friend, or online group

Prioritize sleep.

Many studies show that sleep deprivation, erratic sleeping patterns, and disorders like sleep apnea increase hypertension risks.

Your blood pressure naturally lowers by 10-20% during sleep, and this “break” is essential for cardiovascular health. Disruptions in this pattern can increase blood pressure due to heightened sympathetic nervous system activity and hormonal imbalances. 

Research shows irregular sleeping patterns can boost hypertension risk by 32-92%. Getting at least 7 hours of quality sleep every night is one of the most powerful natural treatments for hypertension. Getting a good nights sleep offers many health benefits.

Quit smoking.

Smoking dramatically raises your risk of developing hypertension by:

  • Causing temporary blood pressure and heart rate spikes
  • Stiffening blood vessel walls
  • Impairing endothelial function (the inner lining of blood vessels)
  • Causing inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Disrupting a crucial hormonal pathway that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance, called the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS)

If you smoke, seek out resources like smoke-free hotlines or support groups, and start a new chapter now.

Watch your cholesterol.

High LDL (“bad”) cholesterol can contribute to high blood pressure by causing plaque buildup, making arteries stiff and narrow. This increases the heart’s workload and blood pressure while damaging artery walls and disrupting the RAAS.

Having high cholesterol and blood pressure significantly heightens cardiovascular risks. So manage both by:

  • Choosing monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados, nuts)
  • Avoiding saturated and trans fats (margarine, fried foods)
  • Eating soluble fiber (beans, lentils, fruits, Brussels sprouts, flaxseeds, oat cereal)
  • Limiting alcohol

Control your blood sugar.

High blood sugar also contributes to high blood pressure. It can lead to atherosclerosis, narrowing blood vessels due to fatty deposits, which increases pressure. 

Related:   What is the DASH Diet?

What’s more, persistent high blood sugar triggers oxidative stress and inflammation, further damaging blood vessels and impairing blood pressure regulation while disrupting the RAAS. 

Follow the healthy lifestyle habits listed above, stay hydrated, and eat at regular times each day to keep your blood sugar levels steady.

Work with your doctor.

Even in the realm of alternative medicine, maintaining a healthy blood pressure involves setting a clear target with your healthcare provider. Regularly record your blood pressure readings to track changes, and consider home monitoring with a blood pressure cuff.

Follow any prescribed treatments closely while embracing healthy lifestyle habits, including diet, exercise, and stress management. And if you suffer from “white coat syndrome” (increased blood pressure at the doctor’s office), consider more frequent visits to ease your fears and get a more accurate reading.

Hypertension might be common, but it doesn’t have to dictate the length or quality of your life. Embrace these lifestyle habits for healthy blood pressure, strengthen your heart, and look forward to enjoying many vital years ahead.

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Arm position is important for blood pressure measurement

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The Science Behind the DASH Eating Plan | NHLBI, NIH

American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids

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Related:   Blueberries Could Replace Blood Pressure Medication

Stress and hypertension

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Author
Carrie Solomon

Carrie Solomon is a freelance health writer, copywriter, and passionate wellness enthusiast. She’s on a mission to help wellness-focused companies educate, engage, and inspire their audiences to make the world a healthier, happier place. Learn more about her at copybycarrie.com or on LinkedIn.

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