3. Eat a healthy diet
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
It isn’t easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet:
* Keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat, even for just a week, can shed surprising light on your true eating habits. Monitor what you eat, how much, when and why.
* Consider boosting potassium. Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is food, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. Talk to your doctor about the potassium level that’s best for you.
* Be a smart shopper. Make a shopping list before heading to the supermarket to avoid picking up junk food. Read food labels when you shop, and stick to your healthy-eating plan when you’re dining out, too.
* Cut yourself some slack. Although the DASH diet is a lifelong eating guide, it doesn’t mean you have to cut out all of the foods you love. It’s OK to treat yourself occasionally to foods you wouldn’t find on a DASH diet menu, like a candy bar or mashed potatoes with gravy.
4. Reduce sodium in your diet
Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can reduce blood pressure by 2 to 8 mm Hg. Most healthy adults need only between 1,500 and 2,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day. But if you have high blood pressure, aim for less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
To decrease sodium in your diet, consider these tips:
* Track how much salt is in your diet. Keep a food diary to estimate how much sodium is in what you eat and drink each day.
* Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy.
* Eat fewer processed foods. Potato chips, frozen dinners, bacon and processed lunch meats are high in sodium.
* Don’t add salt. Just 1 level teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Use herbs or spices, rather than salt, to add more flavor to your foods.
* Ease into it. If you don’t feel like you can drastically reduce the sodium in your diet suddenly, cut back gradually. Your palate will adjust over time.