Outdoor portrait of happy senior man who is looking at camera and smiling.

8 healthy ways to prevent or control hypertension

May is Hypertension Month and May 17 is World Hypertension Day. Hypertension is the leading preventable cause of death and disability worldwide, and can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and dementia, according to Hypertension Canada.

More than half of Canadian seniors have hypertension, reports Statistics Canada, and hypertension is the most common reason to visit a doctor, says the Public Health Agency of Canada. Five of the top 10 drugs used by seniors are for treating high blood pressure, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, and their side effects can affect quality of life.

Healthy choices to lower blood pressure

Healthy lifestyle changes can lower your risk of developing high blood pressure, says the National Institute on Aging (NIA). These healthy lifestyle choices could also help lower high blood pressure to a safe level; or reduce the amount of blood pressure medication you need to take and their side effects, says HealthLinkBC:

1) Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, losing about 10 pounds (5 kg) can lower your blood pressure, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

2) Be physically active daily. Regular physical activity makes your heart stronger, so it can pump more blood with less effort. The force on your arteries decreases, which lowers your blood pressure, says Mayo Clinic.

3) Eat a plant-based diet. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, protein from plant sources and low in red meat, sweets and sugary drinks is effective against hypertension, says HealthLinkBC.

4) Lower salt intake. Instead of adding salt to foods, use herbs or spices to add flavor and eat fewer processed foods.

5) Manage stress. Reduce stress by practicing relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga or tai chi and strengthen your social network by participating in group activities.

6) Limit alcohol use. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. Heart and Stroke advises limiting drinks to no more than two a day.

7) Be smoke-free. Smoking increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. The health benefits of quitting can be seen at any age, says the NIA.

8) Get good sleep. Adequate sleep helps your blood regulate stress hormones and can help prevent or treat high blood pressure, says Mayo Clinic.