Melissa Marcombe

Did you know that 1 of 5 American adults suffer from high blood pressure? Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is very important as hypertension directly increases your chances for having a heart attack or stroke. Many of those suffering from high blood pressure often have no idea they’re at risk because they don’t have any symptoms; that’s why you should get your blood pressure checked regularly by your healthcare provider.

So, what are some measures you can take to decrease your risk for high blood pressure? Below are five tips that can help to keep your blood pressure under control safely and effectively:

1. Maintain a healthy weight

As your body weight increases, your blood pressure tends to rise, putting you at greater risk for a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and congestive heart failure. Maintaining a healthy weight greatly reduces your chances of experiencing any of these issues (along with an endless list of other health problems).

2. Exercise regularly

Work out regularly and build more physical activity into your day, even if you’re not overweight. There’s evidence that exercise alone slightly lowers blood pressure. It can also make weight loss easier, even if you don’t reduce calories. Moreover, working out can set the tone for other healthy habits. Enlist a friend to become active with you so that you will stick with it.  Try to pace while talking on the phone, walk instead of driving or play with your children instead of watching from the sidelines. Sometimes you can walk on available tracks while waiting for your child to start a game or while they are practicing.  Also, just realizing the amount of “screen time” we spend on electronics, social media, etc. and make an effort to cut that down and use that time towards being active. 

3. Decrease your salt intake

The American Heart Association recommends that most adults consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day. Salt can increase blood pressure because it holds extra fluid in the body which can put unnecessary stress on the heart. Watch out for sodium amounts in prepared foods and look for alternative ways to reduce your sodium intake when cooking at home.

4. Quit smoking

Smoking only increases blood pressure while you’re smoking, but if you smoke throughout the day, your blood pressure is elevated for a longer period because smoking quickly adds up to several hours. That’s a meaningful amount and can put you at increased risk for hypertension complications, such as heart disease and stroke.

For women who take birth-control pills, smoking is especially dangerous if their blood pressure is already slightly elevated. Taking birth-control pills at any age increases your blood pressure almost invariably by two or three points. But being on the pill, having blood pressure that’s already slightly elevated and being a cigarette smoker is a dangerous triad that can lead to stroke in women as young as 20!

5. Limit alcohol intake

If you drink, do so in moderation. That means no more than two drinks daily if you’re a man, one if you’re a woman. In studies, moderate amounts of alcohol have been shown to be heart-healthy, but a person who chronically consumes three drinks a day will experience a rise in blood pressure. Keep in mind that one drink equals 12 ounces of beer, four or five ounces of wine or one 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof liquor, all of which supply about 0.5 ounces of alcohol.

Melissa Marcombe, NP is an Internal Medicine provider at Ochsner St. Anne Hospital. She focuses on diagnosing and treating adults over the age of 18. She is specially trained to address complex medical problems and manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. She provides the most current, proven medical care through focusing on the best clinical practices, education, and research. Melissa is available for appointments and is accepting new patients at the Ochsner Health Center – Raceland. To schedule an appointment call 985-537-CARE.