Seven tips for lowering blood pressure

High blood pressure takes a high toll, affecting nearly every organ in the body. Across America, one in three people has high blood pressure. The number is even higher among African-Americans, where nearly 40 percent of adults have high blood pressure.

We often call high blood pressure The Silent Killer, because often there are no symptoms. The only way to know your blood pressure is to get it checked.

The good news is that Christiana Care makes it easy to get your blood pressure checked without even seeing your doctor, thanks to our Blood Pressure Ambassadors.

Blood Pressure Ambassadors are trained community volunteers who help spread the word about high blood pressure. Every week, we offer blood pressure screenings in and around Wilmington, where anyone can get a blood pressure checked and learn more about maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Find the list of free blood pressure screening times and locations here.

More good news: By following a few basic guidelines, you can maintain a healthy blood pressure, often without medication. It’s especially important to keep an eye on blood pressure during the holidays, when the stress and temptations of the season can knock you off a healthy course.

Know your numbers and risks

The more you know about your own risk for high blood pressure and your personal and family history, the better you can take steps to stay healthy.

  • Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80.
  • High blood pressure is at or above 140/90.
  • High blood pressure can lead to serious health problems, including heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, heart failure, vision loss and other problems.

Monitor your blood pressure

You can’t manage your blood pressure if you don’t know what it is.

  • Keep all your regular doctor’s appointments, even when you feel good.
  • Take all medications just as your doctor prescribes.
  • Between doctor visits, take advantage of free blood pressure screenings, and see your doctor if your readings are above normal.

Eat healthy foods without too much sodium

Fast food, restaurant meals, processed foods and canned foods all tend to be high in sodium, which can increase blood pressure. To keep your sodium intake in check:

  • Choose fresh or frozen fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish.Avoid processed, frozen entrees and mixed dishes, which often are high in sodium.
  • Read food labels and know your daily sodium intake, which should be below 2,300 mg for most people; 1,500mg or less for people over 51 and those with risk factors.
  • Choose low-sodium alternatives of food and beverages whenever possible.
  • Don’t add salt to prepared food.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can both raise blood pressure.

Get moving

Your body was built for activity — give it some exercise four or five times a week. If a gym membership or exercise class isn’t your thing, consider simple, free activities:

  • Take a walk with friends.
  • Choose the stairs instead of the elevator when you can.
  • Look for enjoyable exercise routines on YouTube or other free sites.

Watch your weight

If you’re eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, it’s easier to maintain a healthy weight. If you’re having trouble:

  • Talk to your doctor about setting a healthy target weight.
  • Work with a registered dietitian to create healthy, satisfying meal plans.
  • If you need to lose more than just a few pounds, make an appointment with Christiana Care’s Weight Management program, which offers a variety of weight-loss solutions.

If you smoke, quit

Just by quitting smoking, you may be able to lower your blood pressure by 10 points. And it’s one of the best decisions you can make for your overall health.

Relax and get enough rest

We are learning more every day that stress plays a part in many diseases and can contribute to high blood pressure. To lower your stress levels:

  • Take 15 minutes of quiet time or relaxation for yourself every day.
  • Engage in activities such as yoga and deep breathing exercises, which have been proven to reduce stress in the body.
  • Get enough sleep at night, and wake feeling well-rested.

If you would like more information about the Blood Pressure Ambassador Program at Christiana Care Health System, contact Angela Parker, MSN, RN-BC, Blood Pressure Ambassador project manager, at aparker@christianacare.org or 302-320-6800.

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