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How to Lower Your Blood Pressure

90% of people will develop high blood pressure1

While common, hypertension, as high blood pressure is known, is still quite serious. Unchecked, hypertension in the elderly can damage blood vessels and lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and vision problems.

Fortunately, small changes can produce big improvements. Follow these steps to lower your blood pressure and make a dramatic difference in your overall health.

1. Check Your Blood Pressure Regularly

Perhaps the most important step you can take is to get regular checkups and to take your blood pressure medication properly. A blood pressure reading uses two numbers, the systolic and diastolic pressures. A reading of 120/80 or lower is considered normal while a reading of 140/90 or more is high2.

Consider purchasing a blood pressure monitor to measure blood pressure as often as your physician recommends. The additional information you gain can help your physician make more accurate decisions about treatment — and it can be a strong motivator to pursue the lifestyle changes that are critical to successful hypertension treatment.

2. Adopt the DASH Diet

One important lifestyle change is to eat wisely. You can help control hypertension by following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which was devised by experts at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The DASH eating plan includes whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts and has reduced amounts of fats, red meats, sweets and sugared beverages. For more information, read the Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH from the NIH.

3. Avoid Salt

Limiting sodium intake is particularly important, whatever your diet. Although less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day is the current recommendation for otherwise healthy adults, limiting sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day will have a more dramatic effect on blood pressure2.

Salt is included in foods where you might not expect it. For instance, a quarter cup of pasta sauce can have as much as 275 mg of salt, while one-third cup of canned tuna can have 300 mg. These numbers can add up quickly, making the search for low-sodium alternatives worthwhile.

4. Lose Weight Through Diet and Exercise

Losing just five pounds can lower blood pressure. Adopting a healthy senior diet by following some of the recipes on our Senior Eats Blog can make it easier to shed extra pounds. Just 30 minutes of light exercise a day should have a noticeable effect, and can also help lower blood pressure.

 

Sources: 1. National Institutes of Health. Lifetime Risk of Hypertension. Accessed 15 November 2012. 2. National Institutes of Health. What is High Blood Pressure? Accessed 15 November 2012.