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Lifestyle Tips For Supporting Healthy Blood Pressure Levels At Home

Blood pressure matters. In fact, all adults are recommended to have their blood pressure measured once a year in a doctor’s office.

Blood pressure numbers can commonly creep up with age.

How does this happen?

Blood is carried throughout the body in the form of blood vessels. Blood vessels can dilate and constrict. Naturally, narrower blood vessels will increase blood pressure and relaxed blood vessels will lower the blood pressure. Blood vessels can dilate and constrict according to various signals including: temperature, dietary factors, stress levels, and many more factors.

With age, blood vessels tend to become stiffer. With the right preventative measures, however, you can maintain the youthful elasticity of the blood vessels to help support already healthy blood pressure.

Looking for ways to stay on top of your blood pressure? Congratulations on being proactive about your health! As the phrase goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Continue reading to discover our top tips for optimizing your cardiovascular well-being.

Tip 1# Watch Your Salt

The American Heart Association recommends a salt intake of no more than 2,300 mg daily, which is roughly equal to a teaspoon. The American Heart Association also recommends 1,500 mg as a more optimal limit, and certainly the level those with pre-existing blood pressure issues ought to aim for.

Why is excessive salt intake such an issue for blood pressure management?

Salt draws water. Wherever salt goes, water also likes to follow. This is why a bag of salty popcorn at the movie theater or a large order of French fries can make you so thirsty.

Excessive salt increases the fluid volume of the blood, raising blood pressure. Imagine turning up the spigot on the hose as an analogy of what high salt foods do to your circulatory system.

Chronic excessive salt intake is a well-known contributor to unhealthy blood pressure. Unfortunately, the average individual trends towards higher salt consumption according to the research. Americans consume 3,400 mg of salt daily on average.

Salt can be exceptionally sneaky in nutritional labels. For example, did you know ketchup is a high-sodium offender? It’s a good habit to start reading nutritional labels if you are interested in monitoring your salt intake. Here are a couple of examples of sneaky sources of high sodium:

  • Frozen meals
  • Condiments
  • Canned soup
  • Cold cuts/cured meats
  • Pasta sauce
  • Salad dressings
  • Beef jerky

In conclusion, enjoy salt in moderation to maintain a healthy blood pressure and read your labels. Seek out low-sodium options on labels or make certain foods from scratch at home so that you can control the sodium levels.

Tip #2 Keep Your Body Moving

Regular physical activity’s positive effect on the cardiovascular system is a no-brainer. Getting your heart rate up increases circulation. Exercise causes blood vessels to dilate. Encouraging the blood vessels to dilate helps counteract the gradual stiffening of the vessels that occurs with age.

Think of exercise as yoga for your blood vessels. Stretching of the blood vessels from exercise keeps them flexible and elastic.

Additionally, the heart becomes stronger from physical exercise. A stronger heart pumps blood more efficiently. In other words, the heart can pump more blood in fewer beats.

Looking for somewhere to start? The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week.

Moderate intensity means getting your heart rate up 50-60% beyond your average resting heart rate. Not sure what your resting heart rate is? To take your heart rate, feel the area on the inside of your wrist under the thumb. Count how many beats you feel in 15 seconds, and then multiply by four.

Examples of moderate-intensity exercise include:

  • Walking stairs for 15 minutes
  • Swimming laps for 20 minutes
  • Walking two miles in 30 minutes
  • Biking five miles in 30 minutes

Before you go out and join that CrossFit gym, be sure to consult with your physician before changing your exercise routine! Certain medical conditions merit individualized recommendations from a professional. To be on the safe side, talk with your doctor.

Tip #3 Moderate Alcohol Use

A high dose of alcohol is defined as over 30 grams of alcohol. For reference, a standard drink usually contains about 14 grams of alcohol. An example of a standard drink is a 12 ounce beer with 5% alcohol.

Research shows that high doses of alcohol lower blood pressure 12 hours after consumption, but then raise blood pressure levels for the remainder of the 24 hours in a day. Alcohol appears to raise heart rate at all times, even at low doses.

Consistent alcohol use, such as daily use, logically leads to persistently high blood pressure levels. Consistently high blood pressure puts stress on the walls of the blood vessels, causing them to become weak and stiff.

In summary, alcohol should be consumed at modest amounts only occasionally. For a more precise recommendation, The National Center For Health Promotion And Disease Prevention recommends a maximum of 7 drinks a week for women and 14 drinks maximum weekly for men.

Mocktails can be a refreshing alternative to cocktails. For inspiration, try this modestly adapted cranberry sangria recipe by food writer Tracy Rutherford.

Cranberry Sangria Mocktail

  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • Quarter of a pineapple thinly sliced into wedges
  • ½ orange thinly sliced into wedges
  • 1 passionfruit, quartered
  • 2 cups cranberry juice
  • 2 cups ginger beer
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • Pomegranate seeds for garnish

Directions: Divide the ice between 4 serving glasses. Top the ice with your sliced fruit. Divide the cranberry juice and ginger beer evenly between the glasses. Top with your mint leaves and pomegranate seeds for garnish.

Conclusion

Don’t let your blood pressure take you on a wild ride. Keep in control of your cardiovascular wellness by applying the tips above into your routine consistently.

Dr. Laurel Ash ND, MS

Dr Laurel Ash, ND, MS is an Oregon and Washington board-certified Naturopathic Physician. With a passion for nutritional health, Dr Ash earned her doctorate in Naturopathy from the National University of Natural Medicine while receiving her masters in Integrative Mental Health. Her unique combination of evidence-based research and skilled knowledge in holistic medicine has allowed Dr. Ash to successfully treat many with a wide-range of issues.