Almost 75 million (or 1 in 3) Americans suffer from high blood pressure, which is not unlike having an over-inflated tire hard at work every day (CDC, 2016). Eventually, any over-extended system has a blow-out. But blood pressure is sometimes symptom-less, so it’s best to know if you’re too pressurized sooner rather than later. Just like truck maintenance, you can make lowering blood pressure part of your daily routine.
Start by consciously making smart food choices. Foods that are less processed and unsalted should be your top priority when grocery shopping. Try to stay in the aisles located around the perimeter of stores. Foods in these aisles are usually “whole,” meaning it hasn’t been processed, which often adds salt and other unhealthy additives. Consider buying fruits, veggies, water, or foods that don’t need a box. If you can imagine the food you’re buying at the grocery store also being found at a farmer’s market, it’s probably a good choice. These items might be things like fresh eggs and diary.
In addition to healthy eating, it’s also smart to think about your blood pressure. Many big box retailers have small, hand-held blood pressure cuffs that are very basic and practical for anyone to use. You can get a good indication of your blood pressure and stress by taking your own readings. You can assess how your daily activities might be influencing your readings. Blood pressure can be affected by the number of caffeinated drinks you consume, walks you take, the amount of alcohol you consume, snacks you choose, moments of zen, or even stressful traffic. Buying your own cuff will help you monitor your health and determine if you should cut back on some stressful activities or incorporate more healthy habits.
Once you have a sense of where your blood pressure is, you can begin to address how to lower it. Some of the most basic ways to lower blood pressure are to reduce sodium intake and processed foods, become more physically active, lower caffeine intake, limit alcohol, and manage stress. You can even try adding beets or beetroots to smoothies to get your blood pressure readings lower. For some, taking vitamins can help lower readings. Another great way to lower your blood pressure is to not buy frozen dinners, or read food package labels to check for sodium content. The recommended intake of sodium is less than 2,300 milligrams per day (CDC, 2016). Processed foods and eating out are two areas where sodium content will likely be high, so be sure to balance these options.
Another healthy habit to adopt is being aware of how much caffeine you’re consuming. Consider replacing one cup of coffee with a bottle of water each day. Caffeine shrinks blood vessels, so it’s no wonder that high caffeine intake is associated with higher blood pressure readings.
Next, you might consider an app or a technology that counts steps. Perhaps set a goal each week to increase your steps by a certain number, and watch as your blood pressure goes down as your steps go up.
One stress-related area we often overlook is how to handle it. A great coping technique is physical activity. For example, you could easily pair deep breathing with yoga, stretching, or meditation. The benefits of these techniques are supported by medical research and literature. And, lowering stress also means lowering blood pressure.
By implementing any of these lifestyle activities, you’ll be well on your way to less pressurized living. Much like your tires, your blood pressure is something you can start gauging today!