1 In 3 Americans Struggle With This Condition
Nearly one-third of Americans have high blood pressure, with an additional one-third at risk for hypertension. Of these people with high blood pressure, only about half are receiving treatment and have the condition under control. High blood pressure puts a person at increased risk of heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the US. But some intentional lifestyle changes can help. Here are 3 tips to lower blood pressure and improve heart health.
1. Put back the salt shaker
Many Americans eat a diet that is high in sodium. The daily recommended intake for sodium is 2,300 milligrams (mg), or 1 teaspoon of salt. On average, most Americans get around 3,400 mg of sodium per day. This excess sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
The biggest culprits of excess sodium are processed and prepackaged foods. Get used to reading food labels and watch for the words soda and sodium. When grocery shopping, try to shop in the outer aisles of the grocery store where fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins are located.
2. Get off the couch
Some studies have shown that increasing physical activity can be just as beneficial as taking medications. By increasing heart rate through aerobic exercise, the heart gets stronger and works more efficiently to pump blood. This puts less pressure on the arteries and leads to improved blood pressure levels.
Try exercising for 30 minutes 3-5 times per week for heart health benefits. If this is difficult to fit into a busy schedule, some people may benefit from breaking up these 30 minutes into 10-minute chunks of activity. Additionally, increasing exercise doesn’t just have to look like running on the treadmill. Gardening, playing a team sport, or walking to work can all be activities to help boost heart health and lower blood pressure.
3. Watch your weight and your waist
Losing weight is one of the best things Americans can do for improving heart health. Being obese raises the risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, stroke, and some types of cancer. Losing just 5-10% of body weight has been shown to improve heart health.
Specifically, a decrease in belly fat has been linked to lower blood pressure. For men, a waist circumference of 40 inches or greater means an increased risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. For women, risk increases with a waist circumference of over 35 inches. Adults who are trying to lose belly fat may speak with a healthcare provider about the best strategies for weight loss and improved heart health.
Intentional changes bring big benefits
Hypertension is common due to an American diet high in processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle. The good news is that some intentional changes can help to lower blood pressure and improve heart health. Talk to a healthcare provider about what specific changes may be best for decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.