According to a review of 15 studies, the less you drink, the lower your blood pressure will drop—to a point. A study of women at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, for example, found that light drinking (defined as one-quarter to one-half a drink per day for a woman) may actually reduce blood pressure more than no drinks per day. (Check out your body on alcohol for more insight.)
One “drink” is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits to achieve teh goal of low blood pressure. Other studies have also found that moderate drinking—up to one drink a day for a woman, two for a man—can lower risks of heart disease. “High levels of alcohol are clearly detrimental,” says Obarzanek. “But moderate alcohol is protective of the heart. If you are going to drink, drink moderately.”
Do not Smoke
Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. Quitting smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal. People who quit smoking, regardless of age, have substantial increases in life expectancy.
Scientists have long debated the effects of caffeine on blood pressure. Some studies have shown no effect, but one from Duke University Medical Center found that caffeine consumption of 500 mg—roughly three 8-ounce cups of coffee—increased blood pressure by 4 mmHg, and that effect lasted until bedtime. For reference, 8 ounces of drip coffee contain 100 to 125 mg of caffeine; the same amount of tea, 50 mg; an equal quantity of cola, about 40 mg.
Caffeine can raise blood pressure by tightening blood vessels and by magnifying the effects of stress, says Jim Lane, PhD, an associate research professor at Duke and the lead author of the study. “When you’re under stress, your heart starts pumping a lot more blood, boosting blood pressure,” he says.
Listen to Music
Listening to your favorite song not only will improve your feeling of well-being but also lower your blood pressure. A study published in the journal Netherland Heart Journal found musicians had lower blood pressure than non-musicians because their somatosensory nerve activity benefited their autonomic nervous system. If you’re not a musician, listening to music alone, especially classical, will do just as good.
Monitor your blood pressure
Home monitoring can help you keep tabs on your blood pressure, make certain your lifestyle changes are working, and alert you and your doctor to potential health complications. Blood pressure monitors are available widely and without a prescription. Talk to your doctor about home monitoring before you get started.
Regular visits with your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is under control, you might need to visit your doctor only every six to 12 months, depending on other conditions you might have. If your blood pressure isn’t well-controlled, your doctor will likely want to see you more frequently.
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