High Blood Pressure: Dealing Day-to-Day

  • Cut back on salt
    Eating too much salt can lead to water retention in the blood. Normally, the kidneys flush this excess water from the body. However, kidneys that are not functioning properly are unable to get rid of enough excess fluids, which leads to fluid retention. This increases the volume of blood being pumped through the blood vessels and can lead to high blood pressure.

    If you already have high blood pressure, then your kidneys may slow down and excess salt and fluid may collect in the body, adding further to the blood pressure problem.
  • Exercise
    Exercise has been proven to both reduce high blood pressure as well as prevent heart disease. Because of its many benefits, exercise is strongly recommended by government health agencies and medical authorities, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Heart Association.

    Even modest levels of exercise have been shown to have a dramatic ability to improve cardiovascular health. There is no complicated formula to follow and no single exercise program that is clearly better than all the others.

    Exercise can be structured, as in a yoga class or regular workouts at a gym, or it can be unstructured, such as gardening, walking pets or dancing. Even small steps, such as taking the stairs instead of an elevator, can contribute to lower blood pressure and a healthier heart. The most important aspect of exercise is consistency rather than intensity.

    You should never begin any sort of exercise program without a doctor's approval.
  • Quit smoking
    Quitting smoking is not easy, but hundreds of thousands of women find a way to do it every year. Once they have joined the 50 percent of adult smokers who have quit, they can enjoy lowered blood pressure and dramatically reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and several other health problems. Talk with your doctor about smoking-cessation strategies and aids, such as nicotine replacement therapy. Note that a first attempt at quitting may be unsuccessful. It often takes more than one try.
  • Beware of dangerous activities
    People who have high blood pressure should limit their exposure to the following:

    • Saunas
    • Steam baths
    • Steam rooms
    • Heated whirlpools
    • Hot tubs
    • Very warmly heated swimming pools
    These may raise their heart rates and blood pressure to dangerous levels. People with high blood pressure should not use these facilities for more than 10 minutes, after which they should sit down out of the heat for a few minutes before standing to minimize the risk of dizziness or passing out.
  • Be cautious with OTC medications

    People with high blood pressure must also be careful about using certain over-the-counter (OTC) medications that contain vasoconstrictors, since these can elevate blood pressure. Such medications include:

    • Eyedrops
    • Cold, flu, sinus and cough medications (especially those containing decongestants)
    • Antihistamines

    Reviewed By: Abdou Elhendy, MD, PhD, FACC, FAHA

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