6 ways to lower blood pressure dr. yogitha potini boulder community healthHigh blood pressure, or hypertension, affects nearly half of U.S. adults. But here’s the alarming part: about 1 in 5 adults don't know they have it.

“Yet when high blood pressure is left unchecked, the risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, eye disease and kidney disease skyrockets,” BCH internist Yogitha Potini, MD, MPH, said to a crowd of nearly 200 people during free health lecture held in Boulder. “The good news is that making simple changes can go a long way in lowering your blood pressure and preventing complications.”

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Watch a recording of Dr. Potini’s lectureon "Lowering Your Blood Pressure."
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What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood pushing on the walls of the arteries. It's made up of two numbers:

  • Systolic (top number) - pressure in the arteries during heartbeats
  • Diastolic (bottom number) - pressure in the arteries between heartbeats

Here’s how blood pressure is classified:

  • Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg.
  • Elevated blood pressure (pre-hypertension) is when your blood pressure ranges between 121-129/81-89 mm Hg. Pre-hypertension puts you at risk for full-blown hypertension.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) is when your blood pressure is 130/90 mm Hg or higher.

“These numbers might be different from what you’ve heard in the past. Previous guidelines told us that 140 over 90 was considered high blood pressure for the general population, and 150 over 90 for those 60 years or older,” Dr. Potini stated. “But new evidence shows that there are lower rates of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events if we control blood pressure a little bit tighter.”

Make These 6 Lifestyle Changes

If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you might be worried about taking medication to bring your numbers down. Know that if you can successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you might avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication.

Dr. Potini explained that there are six lifestyle changes you can make:

1. Follow the DASH diet. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is designed to treat or prevent high blood pressure. “This diet has proven to help people lower their systolic blood pressure by 10 to 11 points,” said Dr. Potini.

The DASH diet:

  • Includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Limits food high in saturated and trans fats fat such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products and tropical oils (for example, coconut, palm kernel and palm oils).
  • Emphasizes fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils.
  • Limits sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.

    View a DASH eating plan.

2. Reduce sodium in your diet. In addition to the DASH diet, Dr. Potini recommended limiting your salt intake to 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. However to obtain the most benefit, limit sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day.

“A typical American diet is about 3,400 mg of sodium a day, giving you an idea of how much to reduce your salt intake,” Dr. Potini said. “Try to avoid canned foods and, if you do consume canned foods, rinse whatever is in the can to get some of the sodium out. Don’t use salt to flavor your food. Try garlic powder instead. Also, try to avoid cold, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, deli meats and packaged white breads, which all tend to have a lot of sodium.”

3. Enjoy regular exercise. Every week, try to get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity — such as brisk walking, swimming or mowing the lawn — or 75 minutes of vigorous activity such as running and aerobic dancing. Dr. Potini said that “strength training twice a week and reducing sitting time can also lower your blood pressure.”

4. Lose extra pounds. Studies show that for every 2.2 pounds you lose, you can decrease your systolic blood pressure by about 1 point (mm HG), according to Dr. Potini.

5. Limit alcohol use. Too much alcohol can contribute to high blood pressure. Dr. Potini said men should have no more than two drinks per day, and one drink per day for women.

6. Avoid smoking. Cigarette smoking increases blood pressure.

To make an appointment with Dr. Potini, call Internal Medicine Associates of Boulder at (303) 415-4250.

View PowerPoint slides from her free health lecture on “Lowering your blood pressure.”

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