Starting as low as 115/75 mmHg the risk of death due to heart disease
doubles for every increase by 20 mmHg SBP (the top number) or 10 mmHg
DBP (the bottom number). Achieving and maintaining a healthy blood pressure
can have a significant impact on your health and longevity. Physicians
typically encourage lifestyle modifications to reduce blood pressure.
These modifications include weight reduction, diet changes, sodium restriction,
physical activity and alcohol moderation.
Incorporating all these changes into your life can reduce your blood pressure
anywhere from 21-55 points, eliminating the need for prescription drug
The following chart, adapted from the ACSM, shows how many points each
modification has been shown to reduce systolic blood pressure.
||Systolic Blood Pressure Reduction (Range) mm HG
|5-20 per 22 lbs lost
|DASH eating plan
||Diet high in fruits and vegetables, and reduce saturated fat
||Consume less than 6g table salt daily
||30 min activity daily most days of the week
|Reduce Alcohol Consumption
||Less than 2 drinks per day for men, 1 drink for women
So what does this mean for you? It can be challenging to integrate all
the modifications into your life at once, and doing too much too fast
actually increases your chances of failure. First, identify one modification
that you honestly feel you can start implementing immediately and commit
to it 100%. Focus only on that one action, ignore the other modifications.
If after 2-3 weeks you have successfully and consistently implemented
that modification, chose another one to add. The long term goal is to
slowly integrate all them into your normal, everyday life.
There will be set backs, and you may need to recruit the help of a fitness
and nutrition expert for coaching. Keep your physician regularly updated
on your progress. Finally, remember that health is a process. One set
back does not doom you to complete failure. Refer to the chart frequently
for motivation, and in times of difficulty, the chart can remind you how
far you have come.
Amanda Allen MS, CSCS
The 7th Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation,
and Treatment of High Blood Pressure 2003, 03/5233. National Heart, Lung,
and Blood Institute U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. American
College of Sports Medicine. (7th ed). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2006;214.