A special four-page section in the September issue of the Harvard Heart Letter takes a look at the latest thinking on high blood pressure. It includes information on blood pressure basics, measuring change, and the definition of what's normal. The section also offers 10 steps for getting your blood pressure under control and keeping it there:
1. Check it. You can't do much about your blood pressure unless you know what it is. Your doctor should check it at every visit. Measuring at home between visits is even better.
2. Get moving. Exercise can lower blood pressure by 10 points, prevent the onset of high blood pressure, or let you reduce your dosage of blood pressure medications.
3. Eat right. A diet for better blood pressure emphasizes fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts.
4. Control your weight. If you are overweight, losing weight can lower your blood pressure.
5. Don't smoke. Smoking a cigarette can cause a 20-point spike in systolic blood pressure.
6. Drink alcohol in moderation. Going beyond a drink a day can contribute to higher blood pressure.
7. Shake up your salts. Too much sodium and too little potassium can boost blood pressure. Aim for less than 1.5 grams of sodium a day, and at least 4.7 grams of potassium from fruits and vegetables.
8. Sleep is good. Chronic lack of sleep can contribute to high blood pressure. Get at least six hours a night.
9. Reduce stress. Mental and emotional stress can raise blood pressure. Meditation and deep breathing can lower it.
10. Stick with your medications. Taking medication can keep you from having a stroke or heart attack.