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Quick Dose: What Can I Do to Lower My Blood Pressure?

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High blood pressure contributes to heart disease, stroke and other serious health conditions. The good news is that blood pressure can be controlled with healthy behaviors and medication is not always needed.

Here are seven behaviors that can help to lower your blood pressure: 

1. Minimize processed, packaged and even restaurant foods, where sodium can hide. At home, go easy on the salt. Half a teaspoon contains about 1200 mg of sodium, and the daily recommended amount of sodium is 2300 mg, according to the National Academy of Medicine.
2. Consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables: at least five servings per day.
3. Don’t use tobacco. If you do use tobacco, ask for help from your doctor on strategies to quit.
4. Limit your alcohol consumption since heavy alcohol use can lead to blood pressure spikes.
5. Attain an optimal body weight through diet and exercise, usually considered a body mass index between 18.5 kg/m2 and 25 kg/m2.
6. Reduce your stress levels with exercise such as yoga or meditation, or even vigorous 30-minute cardio workouts, including power walking, most days of the week.
7. Leave the office on time so you can de-stress, exercise or make time for a healthy, leisurely meal.

If you have elevated blood pressure, talk to your doctor about the benefits of home blood pressure monitoring so you can see how your behaviors influence your blood pressure.

- Mark Huffman, MD, MPH Northwestern Medical Group, cardiology

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