Health Action: How to lower high-blood pressure

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  • | 11:40 a.m. January 18, 2012
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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More than 1 in 4 adults in Central Florida has hypertension. Hypertension means the pressure of the blood against your arteries is too high. Your blood pressure (BP) should be below 130/80. The first number, systolic BP, is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart beats. The second number, diastolic BP, is the force of the blood in the arteries as the heart relaxes between beats. High BP makes the heart work too hard, which over time can cause damage to your arteries, heart and kidneys and cause a stroke.

Most people with hypertension are taking at least one step to lower it, but over half do not have it under control. So how do you lower your BP? What works? Medication is a fast way to get your BP controlled. For the long-term, lifestyle changes are key and can lower or eliminate your need for drug treatment. A combination of these strategies can help boost your energy and avoid or postpone medical problems:

Medication — Take your medication as prescribed every day. It works.

Mind your weight — Blood pressure can go up and down with weight gains and losses. Having the right weight for your height can lower your blood pressure dramatically.

Move — Enjoyable and frequent exercise, combined with healthy eating, can help you get and maintain a healthy weight. Take to the Central Florida trails on foot, on a bike or rollerblades (with helmet, knee and wrist pads), increase your swimming, or frequent the gym. Be sure to pick something you like and enjoy.

Make DASH your diet — The DASH diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, low fat dairy, lean poultry and fish, can lower BP significantly. Check out for some sample menus and recipes.

Minimize sodium—We lose some salt when we sweat in the Florida heat, but most of us have more than enough salt. The salt shaker adds only a fraction of our salt intake. Salt is in just about every canned, frozen, processed and restaurant food. Read the sodium content on the labels. Go for fresh instead. Live dangerously; spice up your life with new spices. Try the ethnic grocery stores in town for some interesting new spices, such as the Indian spice mixture garam masala.

Moderate alcohol — Drinking more than two alcoholic drinks a day — including beer — is linked with higher BP. Try water with a fresh lime or unsweetened green tea instead.

Magic chocolate — Perhaps the most enjoyable way to help your blood pressure is dark chocolate or cocoa. Ten studies have shown BP declines slightly with daily small “doses” of good chocolate.

Mindful Relaxation — Daily doses of relaxation also can help lower blood pressure. Taking in the serene lakes of Central Florida, the quiet evenings, the sunsets, yoga and meditation classes are just some of the ways to coax your relaxed self forward.

Monitor — Home monitors for blood pressure can help you keep an eye on your pressure. You can also visit our friendly firefighters to have your blood pressure checked by the pros.

Make the most of your life choices, with healthy eating, exercise, good relationships and relaxation.

Maitland resident Nancy Rudner Lugo is a nurse practitioner and president of Health Action, offering workplace health consulting and nurse coaching. Visit