Blood pressure isn’t just something to think about when you get the numbers at your annual physical. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a potentially serious health condition that can damage blood vessels, increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke. So it’s worth doing things that encourage healthy blood pressure every day. A good start: Avoiding these five things experts say are the most common contributors to high blood pressure. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
According to the Mayo Clinic, reacting to stress with unhealthy behaviors—like smoking, overeating, or drinking too much alcohol—can contribute to high blood pressure. To reduce your risk, find healthy coping mechanisms, including exercise, relaxation exercises and meditation. Some of those activities (especially exercise) can lower blood pressure and contribute to heart health.
Boozing isn’t just bad for your liver. It’s tough on your cardiovascular system, too, including your heart and arteries. “While a little alcohol may relax arteries, too much seems to have the opposite effect,” says Johns Hopkins Medicine. Just one drink can raise your blood pressure for up to two hours afterward. To reduce your risk of high blood pressure and other serious health problems, experts advise drinking alcohol only in moderation. That means no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
Being overweight or obese is a major contributor to high blood pressure. It’s a simple matter of physics: “The more you weigh, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues,” says the Mayo Clinic. “As the amount of blood flow through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls.” But it doesn’t take much weight loss to make a real difference in your health. If you’re overweight, losing only about eight pounds reduces your risk of high blood pressure 50 percent.
People who are sedentary have a 30 to 50 percent higher risk of high blood pressure than people who are more active. That’s because exercise keeps arteries flexible, while being sedentary causes them to become rigid, forcing blood to exert more pressure to keep flowing. The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (like brisk walking or gardening) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (like running, swimming or rowing) each week.
Eating an unhealthy diet high in sodium (salt) is possibly the biggest cause of high blood pressure. The CDC recommends that Americans consume no more than 2,300 mg (or about one teaspoon) of salt each day. About 90% of Americans eat more than that amount. Sodium causes the body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure. To stay healthy, check Nutrition Facts labels for sodium levels (some foods you might not expect, like canned soups and breads, may be high in sodium) and limit your consumption of fast food and processed foods. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more