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What is high blood pressure and a healthy lifestyle?

03 July 2007
To help control your high blood pressure (hypertension), your doctor may ask you to make changes in your lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle refers to all the things you can do for yourself to make your quality of life better and stay as healthy as possible.

What activities are included?

There are many activities you can do to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Some examples are:

Weight Reduction: Excess body weight raises blood pressure, leads to high cholesterol, makes exercise more difficult, and is a risk factor for diabetes mellitus (high blood sugar). Losing as little as 10 pounds can be remarkably effective in reducing blood pressure and lowering the risk for many diseases which affect the heart and blood vessels.

Exercise: High blood pressure can be lowered with moderately intense exercise, such as 30 - 45 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Limited Salt (Sodium) Intake: Don't add salt to your food, follow recipes from a low-salt cookbook, choose low-salt snacks and stay away from processed foods and most of the food in "fast-food" restaurants.

Limited Alcohol Intake: Limiting intake of alcohol (one can of beer, glass of wine, or mixed drink per day) helps control your blood pressure.

Follow the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet: Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, dietary fiber, potassium, calcium and magnesium, low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol and moderately high in protein with low-fat dairy products. If you need help in planning healthy eating patterns, talk with your doctor about nutritional counseling.

Take prescribed medications as directed: It is important to take all medications your doctor recommended and not take yourself off your medication even if you are feeling better.

Quit Smoking/Tobacco Use: If you smoke or use tobacco, begin a program to quit smoking. Ask your doctor about HAP smoking/tobacco cessation programs that can help.

Keep your stress to a minimum: Learning to manage stress can help you maintain a positive outlook, which can have a positive effect on your health.

How to start!

How can I start having a healthy lifestyle? You and your physician are a team that should work together to design an appropriate program for you.
  • Set short and long-term goals with your physician.
  • Start with one major goal at a time.
  • Discuss your successes and opportunities to do better in accomplishing these goals during office visits with your doctor.
  • Reward yourself. After you have achieved your goals, treat yourself to something fun!

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