Your life. Your blood pressure.

Are genes to blame for high blood pressure? Sometimes. But how you live your life can also determine whether your blood pressure puts your health at risk.

Certain lifestyle factors can contribute to the development of high blood pressure. On the other hand, certain lifestyle changes can help keep BP in check. Read on to learn which factors make it more likely that you will develop high blood pressure, and which changes can help reduce your risk of this silent killer.

Things in your life that put you at-risk for high blood pressure:

(a.k.a. WHAT NOT to do)

Many factors can raise your blood pressure. Here are some common culprits.

  • Lack of physical activity: Not getting enough physical activity increases your risk of getting high blood pressure.
  • An unhealthy diet: Good nutrition is essential for your health. A diet that is too high in salt, calories, sugar, and saturated and trans fat carries an additional risk of high blood pressure.
  • Being overweight or obese: Carrying too much weight puts an extra strain on your heart and circulatory system that can cause serious health problems. It also increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Drinking too much alcohol: Regular, heavy use of alcohol can cause many health problems, including heart failure, stroke and an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). It can cause your blood pressure to increase dramatically and can also increase your risk of cancer, obesity, alcoholism, suicide and accidents. Even one drink a day can be too much, depending on your blood pressure and other health issues.
  • Smoking and tobacco use: Whether you’re smoking, vaping or chewing, tobacco can cause your blood pressure to temporarily increase and can contribute to damaged arteries. Secondhand smoke also increases the risk of heart disease for nonsmokers.
  • Stress: Too much stress, along with pain, anxiety and worry, may contribute to higher blood pressure.
  • Salt: The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mgs) a day with an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. A great start: aim to reduce processed foods, fast foods, and foods with added salt.
  • Pain relievers: Medicines such as Advil®, Aleve®, ibuprofen, or naproxen can raise blood pressure.
  • Sleep disturbances: Poor sleep, snoring or untreated sleep apnea, most often related to excess weight, can raise blood pressure.
  • Drugs: Legal medications, including medication for depression, colds, and ADHD, as well as illegal drugs, such as meth and cocaine, can raise blood pressure.

Things you can do to manage your blood pressure:

(a.k.a. What TO DO)

An apple a day (even from the local fruit stand) may not be enough to keep the doctor away, but lifestyle choices like these can help reduce your risk of developing—or worsening—high blood pressure.

  • Eat well: Eat a well-balanced diet that’s low in salt.
  • Put a lid on drinking: Limit alcohol to 1 drink a day or less.
  • Get moving: Engage in regular physical activity. Fortunately, we have so many ways to get our heart pumping in Central Oregon!
  • Chill out: Manage stress by talking to someone, using relaxation techniques, getting enough rest, keeping a journal and more.
  • Maintain—or lose—weight: Try to dial in the scale to a healthy weight.
  • Be a quitter: A tobacco quitter, that is.
  • Med wisely: Take your medications according to your doctor’s instructions.
  • Talk to your doc: Work with your healthcare provider to make and maintain a blood pressure plan.
  • Know your numbers: Get your blood pressure checked. If you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure, continue to check your blood pressure, tracking your results over time to see if the changes you’ve made are working.
  • Slash sodium: Try to stay under 1,500 mg of sodium per day, or work to reduce your sodium by at least a 1,000 mg per day.
  • Keep tabs on BP at home: Measure and track your blood pressure at home.
  • Stay in tune: Be aware of your overall health and let your healthcare provider know if things change.

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