10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication

POSTED: 03:20 PM MST Feb 11, 2014    UPDATED: 03:42 PM MST Feb 25, 2014 
Blood pressure check

By Mayo Clinic News Network

If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure (a systolic pressure -- the top number -- of 140 or above or a diastolic pressure — the bottom number -- of 90 or above), you might be worried about taking medication to bring your numbers down.

Lifestyle plays an important role in treating your high blood pressure. If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you may avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication.

Here are 10 lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure and keep it down.

1. Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline

Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Losing just 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) can help reduce your blood pressure. In general, the more weight you lose, the lower your blood pressure. Losing weight also makes any blood pressure medications you're taking more effective. You and your doctor can determine your target weight and the best way to achieve it.

Besides shedding pounds, you should also keep an eye on your waistline. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high blood pressure. In general:

2. Exercise regularly

Regular physical activity -- at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week -- can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). And it doesn't take long to see a difference. If you haven't been active, increasing your exercise level can lower your blood pressure within just a few weeks.

If you have prehypertension -- systolic pressure between 120 and 139 or diastolic pressure between 80 and 89 -- exercise can help you avoid developing full-blown hypertension. If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels.

Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program. Your doctor can help determine whether you need any exercise restrictions. Even moderate activity for 10 minutes at a time, such as walking and light strength training, can help.

But avoid being a "weekend warrior." Trying to squeeze all your exercise in on the weekends to make up for weekday inactivity isn't a good strategy. Those sudden bursts of activity could actually be risky.

3. Eat a healthy diet

Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.

It isn't easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet:

4. Reduce sodium in your diet

Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can reduce blood pressure by 2 to 8 mm Hg. The recommendations for reducing sodium are:

To decrease sodium in your diet, consider these tips:

5. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink

Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. In small amounts, it can potentially lower your blood pressure by 2 to 4 mm Hg. But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol -- generally more than one drink a day for women and men older than age 65, or more than two a day for men age 65 and younger. Also, if you don't normally drink alcohol, you shouldn't start drinking as a way to lower your blood pressure. There's more potential harm than benefit to drinking alcohol.

If you drink more than moderate amounts of it, alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of high blood pressure medications.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/ART-20046974/