Take a deep breath
True relaxation — the kind that relieves stress — calms tension in your body and in your mind. Calming activities can relax blood vessels and the heart, resulting in a lower blood pressure. But relaxation is an art that consists of more than just chilling out in front of the TV.
Starting today, take 10 to 15 minutes to sit quietly twice daily. Find a time and place that keep interruptions at bay. Breathe deeply and slowly while picturing a peaceful scene. Inhale and imagine the breaths sending precious oxygen throughout your body. Exhale, trying to empty your lungs completely.
Once you've mastered mini-deep-breathing sessions, take it to the next level. Consider trying a class in yoga or meditation (with your doctor's approval, of course).
Pack a tuna wrap
Doctor William Castelli is medical director of a wellness program at the Metro West Medical Center in Framingham, Massachusetts, a center that specializes in aggressive management of cardiovascular disease risk factors.
"Twice a week, swap a less-healthy protein such as a beef, pork, [or] lamb, which carries a higher risk of saturated fat and cholesterol, for a leaner protein such as fish," suggests Dr. Castelli. "Good fish options include sardines, anchovies, salmon, herring, mackerel, trout and even canned, white tuna."
For lunch today, instead of hitting the vending machine or closest drive-thru, get a hearty dose of omega-3s with some heart-healthy tuna and fresh, crisp lettuce on a wrap.
Swap a cup of joe for a glass of juice
Stop smoking. Smoking increases heart rate and blood pressure and can lead to 'clumping,' or possible blood clot formation, in the blood vessels.Limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine is present in coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate. Consuming a moderate amount — no more than a cup or two of coffee — is plenty.
Skip the late, late show. When it comes to heart health, getting sufficient, high-quality sleep is just as important as dieting and exercising. Poor sleep quality puts one at a surprisingly increased risk of developing high blood pressure.
Sit and squeeze
It's important to get up and move. Exercise is vital for a healthy heart. But you can actually lower your blood pressure while sitting in your desk chair, too!
Isometric exercises can be done anywhere and require very little movement. Isometric movements are those in which you contract large muscles without actually moving the body part — a static hand grip or flexing of the buttocks muscles, for example.
Shoot for 20-minute sessions of contracting and relaxing. While seated, squeeze your inner thighs for two minutes. Relax the muscles for two minutes. Repeat five times.
Buy a blood pressure monitor
A healthy blood pressure reading is the sign of a strong heart, and keeping an eye on those numbers is an easy way to monitor your health and prevent high blood pressure (the silent killer) from sneaking up on you.
It's not practical to visit the doctor every day to check your blood pressure, so consider monitoring it at home. Your regular home readings, when compared with those of your occasional doctor's office visits, are a great way to track your cardiovascular health.
An imprecise blood pressure treatment can lead to treatment that's not right for your body, so accuracy is the key. These guidelines will help you choose a reliable home monitoring device:
Tip: For more help on monitoring your blood pressure at home, visit FamilyDoctor.org.
More on heart health
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