In order to treat hypertension, a change of lifestyle is one of the first options one must consider. Lifestyle modification or non-pharmacologic treatment is the number one way to increase the quality of your health and life in general. Below are the main methods recommended by the Great Health Association of America.
- Weight reduction and regular aerobic exercise (e.g. jogging) are recommended as the first steps in treating mild to moderate hypertension. Regular mild exercise improves blood flow and helps to reduce resting heart rate and blood pressure. These steps are highly effective in reducing blood pressure, although drug therapy is still necessary for many patients with moderate or severe hypertension to bring their blood pressure down to a safe level.
- Reducing sodium salt diet is proven very effective: it decreases blood pressure in about 60% of people (see above). Many people choose to use a salt substitue to reduce their salt intake.
- Additional dietary changes beneficial to reducing blood pressure include the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which is rich in fruits and vegetables and low fat or fat-free dairy foods. This diet is shown effective based on National Institutes of Health sponsored research. In addition, an increase in daily calcium intake has the benefit of increasing dietary potassium, which theoretically can offset the effect of sodium, and act on the kidney to decrease blood pressure. This has also been shown to be highly effective in reducing blood pressure.
- Discontinuing tobacco smoking and alcohol drinking has been shown to lower blood pressure. The exact mechanisms are not fully understood, but blood pressure (especially systolic) always transiently increases following alcohol and/or nicotine consumption. Besides, abstention from cigarette smoking is important for people with hypertension because it reduces the risk of many dangerous outcomes of hypertension, such as stroke and heart attack. Note that coffee drinking (caffeine ingestion) also increases blood pressure transiently, but does not produce chronic hypertension.
Relaxation therapy, such as meditation, that reduces environmental stress, high sound levels and over-illumination can be an additional method of ameliorating hypertension.