10 Simple Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure

How to ward off this silent killer before it has devastating effects on your heart and overall health

Exercising regularly and reducing stress are two ways to lower high blood pressure

The effects of high blood pressure can appear without warning, but it’s easy to get blood pressure under control

They call it the Silent Killer. You can’t see it or often even feel it, but its effects can be devastating to your heart and your overall health. High blood pressure (outside the generally accepted norm of 120/80) affects one in five Canadians, and almost half of these people don’t even know they have it because there are so few symptoms.

High blood pressure can damage blood vessel walls, which over time can strain and weaken the heart, and contribute to peripheral vascular disease and renal disease. Uncontrolled, high blood pressure can lead to heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure or stroke, which is why it’s so important that you control your blood pressure.

If you have high blood pressure (and even if you don’t), here are 10 simple ways to help take some of the pressure off.

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Losing as little as 
10% of your body weight can dramatically reduce your blood pressure.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day, four to six times a week. Go for a walk, join a gym or do light strength training.

  • Quit smoking: Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke. Smoking is a major contributor to high blood pressure.

  • Reduce your salt intake: Avoid high-sodium cured meats, processed foods and salty snacks.

  • Limit alcohol: Consume no more than one (for women) or two (for men) drinks per day. (One drink equals 12 oz./355 mL of beer, 5 oz./148 mL of wine or
1 oz./30 mL of distilled spirit).

  • Reduce stress; Pace yourself, limit commitments and take time to relax every day. Listen to soft music, nap, or take up yoga or meditation.

  • Adopt a healthy diet: Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean meats.

  • Limit caffeine: Doctors recommend a maximum daily intake of 400 mg per day (or less), the equivalent of four cups of coffee. Switch to decaf.

  • Get a regular check-up: Check with your doctor to ensure you are controlling your blood pressure.

  • Create a support system: Making lifestyle changes (like losing weight or quitting smoking) can be difficult. Enlist the help of friends and family to help you achieve your goals.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.