Individuals who have problems with their blood pressure are counseled to take steps to keep the blood pressure below the 140/90 range. The exception to this would be those who also have other health problems especially diabetes and kidney disease; in these cases the target range should be even lower. However, if the blood pressure is still in the pre-hypertension range of 120 / 80-139 / 89, then prevention is still possible.

There is no single answer for the question “How to lower your blood pressure?” There is no single answer because lower blood pressure requires a change in all areas of an individual's life. It requires commitment and persistence in changing unhealthy habits into healthy ones leading to decrease in blood pressure, more energy, weight loss, sleep improvement, and better outlook on life – these are some side effects everyone should experience!

So, with all the information available, how does someone start the process to change from one lifestyle to another? Well, the answer to that question is simple. Make it simple! Information overload is a by-product of our informational society and the main symptom is paralysis and indecision.

The following offers an overview and suggested first steps in making the change:

1. Reducing Salt / Sodium
Research has shown that individuals who keep their salt / sodium intake to about 1,500 mg per day along with healthy eating, did better than those who did not. The lower salt / sodium can help keep pre-hypertension numbers from rising and, if an individual is on blood pressure medication, can actually help the medicines to work better.

1st Step:

– Check Labels: Look for labels “with no salt added”, “low sodium”, “sodium-free”, “reduced sodium”, etc.
– Canned Vegetables: Rinse at least twice to remove some sodium.
– Frozen Vegetables: Buy plain frozen vegetables with no butter or sauce.
– Fresh Products: Fresh poultry (skinless), fish, lean meat. Canned and processed types generally have high sodium content.
– Herbs & Spices: Try a variety of salt-free seasoning blends for cooking and use at the table.
– Cooking: Cook pasta, hot cereal and rice without salt.
– Hidden Salt / Sodium: Flavored or instant cereal mixes, rice, pasta, salad dressing, pizza, frozen dinners, canned soups, packaged mixes and broths are generally high in sodium.
– Cereals: Read label and buy cereals that are lower in sodium.
– Convenience Foods: Read label and buy low sodium foods.

2. Eating Healthy

Eating healthy means having the necessary low fat, low sodium, low calorie foods on hand when preparing meals. Having a well-stocked pantry makes the transition to healthy eating much easier. While shopping, pay close attention to the label information and choose the best product.

1st Step:

– Dairy: Stock fat free or low fat milk, cheese, cottage cheese or yogurt.
– Margarine: Diet or light margarine.
– Eggs: Buy eggs / egg substitutes / egg whites
– Breads / Cereals: Stock corn tortillas (soft), low fat flour tortillas, low fat / low sodium crackers, dry / cooked plain cereal, pasta, rice, sandwich bread, pita bread, English muffins, bagels.
– Vegetables: Choose fresh frozen, “no salt added” or “low-reduced sodium” canned vegetables.
– Beans / Peas: Buy a variety of packaged dry beans and peas.
– Fruit: Fresh frozen, canned fruits in light syrup or own juice.
– Poultry / Fish: Fresh skinless chicken or turkey (white meat), unbattered shellfish and fish.
– Beef: Extra lean ground beef and loin, round, sirloin.
– Pork: Tenderloin, shoulder, leg.
– Condiments: Buy nonfat / low fat salad dressings, salsa, herbs, spices, honey, jelly, jam, catsup, and mustard.

3. Physical Activity

NOTE: Check with your physician if there is a history of heart disease in the family especially if it was an early age diagnosis (men before age 55 and women before age 65), if you have heart problems, have had a heart attack, other serious health problems.

1st Step:

– Beginning Level: Walk slow for 5 minutes (warm-up), walk faster for 3-4 minutes, walk slow for 5 minutes (cool-down). Add a minute to the middle portion (faster walking) every week, or when you feel comfortable. Continue adding minutes until you are walking fast for 20-30 minutes. Always warm-up (5 minutes) and always cool-down (5 minutes). Walk everyday, if possible.

– Moderate level: A few suggested activities include brisk walking (2 miles in 30 minutes), swimming laps (20 minutes), bicycling 30 minutes, fast social dancing (30 minutes), raking leaves (30 minutes), stair walking (15 minutes) ).

– Vigorous Level: Moderate level activities performed for a longer and / or faster period of time, jogging, swimming laps, bike riding on hills, jumping rope.

4. Limit Alcohol Usage

Not only does drinking too much raise blood pressure, it also hormones the brain, heart and liver. If weight loss is a goal, then staying away from alcohol might be the wisest thing to do since alcohol does contain calories. Drink alcohol in moderation when you must, which means one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

What is a drink and how many calories?

One half ounce of 80 proof whiskey, 100 calories
12 ounces of beer, regular or light, 150 calories
5 ounces of wine, 100 calories

5. Stop smoking. Talk with your physician about different programs available.

The real question is not, “How to lower your blood pressure?” It is, “Do you really want to lower your blood pressure?” Only you can answer that!