Take charge of your heart health

Seven ways to reduce your blood pressure and improve your heart health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, uncontrolled high blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Because many times it has no symptoms, high blood pressure is called the silent killer. If you know you have high blood pressure (also called hypertension), take these steps to get it under control:

Ask your doctor for your target number. Work with your doctor to set a goal to lower your blood pressure and ask what you can do to reach it. Track your blood pressure over time and work with your health care team throughout the year to make sure you meet that goal.

Take your blood pressure medicine as directed. Set a reminder, such as an alarm on your phone, to take your medicine at the same time each day. If you are having trouble taking your medications on time or paying for your medicines, or if you are having side effects, ask your doctor for help.

Quit smoking — and if you are not a smoker, don’t start. Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your heart health. Smoking damages your heart’s artery linings and leads to high blood pressure. Norton Healthcare offers smoking cessation programs to help you quit.

Reduce salt. Most Americans consume too much salt, or sodium, which can raise blood pressure. Try these tips to decrease your sodium intake:

  • Eat fewer processed meats, such as bacon, hot dogs and bologna. 
  • Choose fresh or frozen vegetables over canned. 
  • Skip processed snack foods like chips. Instead, pick fresh food, such as fruit. 
  • Compare various brands of the same food item until you find one that has the lowest sodium content. 
  • Read labels: The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg/day. 
  • Try the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). 
  • Season food with herbs and spices or salt replacers like Mrs. Dash instead of salt.

Maintain a healthy weight and exercise. Losing just 5 pounds can help lower blood pressure. Thirty minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity most days of the week can also help lower blood pressure.

Manage your stress. Find a healthy way to manage your stress, such as meditation or engaging in a hobby you enjoy. Getting daily exercise also will help.

Limit alcohol. Women should have no more than one alcoholic drink per day and men should have no more than two drinks per day.

– Erin Wiedmar, nutritionist, N Good Health, and Theresa Byrd, R.N., BSN, Norton Women’s Heart & Vascular Center

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