High blood pressure — or hypertension — is common, affecting one out of every three American adults. It can predispose you to stroke, heart attack, kidney disease and heart failure.
Many people with hypertension end up on medications, sometimes even multiple drugs. But blood pressure can also be significantly, and positively, affected by lifestyle changes.
Here’s a look at how lifestyle changes can impact blood pressure readings.
Put it all together and these changes can result in a 20 to 55 point drop. That’s the same outcome you’d get from being on a bunch of medications!
There are other things you can do, too. Reduce your caffeine intake and stress, and treat sleep apnea if you have it.
And although blood pressure medications are well tolerated, side effects are not uncommon. Diuretics increase the frequency of urination and lower potassium levels, sometimes requiring the use of potassium supplements. Beta blockers, which lower heart rate as well as blood pressure, can cause fatigue, erectile dysfunction and sometimes depression. In people with asthma, beta blockers can make wheezing worse. Calcium channel blockers can cause leg edema, and ACE inhibitors can cause cough.
In contrast, losing weight, eating better, exercising more and reducing alcohol consumption are side effect free.
Taking blood pressure medications is not a bad thing if you need them. But if you can reduce your reliance on them by improving your health in general, you will be much better off.