Many seniors are in prehypertension, that borderline stage where your blood pressure is at the highest end of normal. If your blood pressure is consistently 120/80 or higher, it’s a warning sign that you may develop full-blown hypertension. Chronic high blood pressure drastically increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, heart disease, heart failure, and kidney failure. People with high blood pressure can make some changes in their lifestyle today to avoid developing hypertension.
Exercise in intervals throughout the day
If you’re not used to exercising, it can be hard to start doing an hour-long workout every day. Instead, exercise in short bursts several times each day. Take a short break to run on the treadmill for five minutes, or sprint around the block. Aim to get 30 minutes of exercise in total. That’s just three 10-minute breaks a day.
Reduce your stress
Anxiety and stress have been proven to temporarily raise your blood pressure. It’s unclear if the behaviors associated with stress—drinking alcohol, overeating, or sleeping poorly—cause hypertension, or whether the constant blood pressure spikes are the culprit. Either way, long-term stress is linked to hypertension. For tips on reducing stress and anxiety, read our previous blog post, Take a Break From Stress.
Take a nap
If your schedule allows it, take a one-hour nap every day. It’s been proven to lower blood pressure and may help you avoid blood pressure medication. Just make sure napping doesn’t make it hard to fall asleep at night. Poor sleeping habits are a risk factor for hypertension, so it’s important to get a good night’s sleep.
Don’t drink as much
While you don’t have to give up drinking completely—red wine is actually linked to heart health—reduce your intake if you’re in prehypertension. Drinking too much alcohol can cause high blood pressure, but studies show heavy drinkers can improve their average blood pressure by cutting back to one drink a day. For reference, a drink of alcohol means 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or a shot and a half of whiskey or vodka.
Watch your caffeine
Drinking coffee may contribute to higher blood pressure in some people. One theory is that caffeine blocks a hormone that helps keep the arteries widened. Caffeine doesn’t seem to cause high blood pressure in everyone, but if you’re in prehypertension, ask your doctor if limiting caffeine could help improve your numbers.