If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you might be worried about taking medication to bring your numbers down. Lifestyle plays an important role in treating high blood pressure. If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you might avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication. By making the following lifestyle changes, you can lower your blood pressure and reduce risk of heart diseases.

Lose excess fat and watch your waistline

Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight also can cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea), which further raises blood pressure. Losing weight is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure. Losing just 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) can help reduce blood pressure. Besides shedding pounds, you generally should also keep an eye on your waistline. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at a greater risk of high blood pressure.

Men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (102 centimetres).

Women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (89 centimetres).

These numbers vary for every individual. Ask your doctor about a healthy waist measurement for you.


Regular physical activity, at least 30 minutes most days of the week, can lower your blood pressure. It's important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again. If you have slightly high blood pressure (prehypertension), exercise can help you avoid developing full-blown hypertension. If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels. The best types of exercise for lowering blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about developing an effective exercise programme.

Reduce salt intake

Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can reduce you BP.

The effect of sodium intake on one’s BP varies among groups of people. In general, limit sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less. However, a lower sodium intake – 1,500 mg a day or less – is appropriate for people with greater salt sensitivity, including anyone age 51 or older and anyone diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. To decrease sodium in your diet, consider these tips:

• Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy.

• Eat fewer processed foods. Only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in foods – most sodium is added during processing.

• Don't add salt. Just one level teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Use herbs or spices to add flavour to your food.

• Ease into it. If you don't feel you can drastically reduce the sodium in your diet suddenly, cut back gradually – your palate will adjust over time.

Stop smoking

Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. Quitting smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal. People who quit smoking, regardless of age, have substantial increases in life expectancy.

Eat healthy

Eating fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and a diet that is rich in whole grains, as well as cutting back on saturated fat and cholesterol can help lower blood pressure. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. It isn't easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet:

• Keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat, even for just a week, can shed surprising light on your true eating habits. Monitor what you eat, how much, when and why.

• Consider boosting potassium. Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is food, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. Talk to your doctor about the potassium level that's best for you.

• Be a smart shopper. Read food labels when you shop and stick to your healthy-eating plan when you're dining out, too.

Cut down your caffeine intake

The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debated. Caffeine can raise blood pressure by as much as 10mm Hg in people who rarely consume it, but there is little to no strong effect on blood pressure in habitual coffee drinkers. Although the effects of chronic caffeine ingestion on blood pressure aren't clear, the possibility of a slight increase in blood pressure exists. To see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a caffeinated beverage. If your blood pressure increases by 5 to 10mm Hg, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine. Talk to your doctor about the effects of caffeine on your blood pressure.

Monitor your BP regularly

Home monitoring can help you keep tabs on your blood pressure. Make certain your lifestyle changes are working, and alert yourself and your doctor regarding potential health complications. Blood pressure monitors are available widely and without a prescription. Talk to your doctor about home monitoring before you get started. Regular visits to your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is under control, you might need to visit your doctor only every six to 12 months, depending on other conditions you might have. If your blood pressure isn't well-controlled, your doctor will likely want to see you more frequently.

Seek support

Supportive family and friends can help improve your health. They may encourage you to take care of yourself, drive you to the doctor's office or embark on an exercise programme with you to keep your blood pressure low. If you find you need support beyond your family and friends, consider joining a support group. This may put you in touch with people who can give you an emotional or morale boost and who can offer practical tips to cope with your condition.