Seven ways to keep stress — and blood pressure — down


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An alarming one in three American adults has high blood pressure. Known medically as hypertension, many people don't even know they have it, because high blood pressure has no symptoms or warning signs. But when elevated blood pressure is accompanied by abnormal cholesterol and blood sugar levels, the damage to your arteries, kidneys, and heart accelerates exponentially. Fortunately, high blood pressure is easy to detect and treat. Sometimes people can keep blood pressure in a healthy range simply by making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, increasing activity, and eating more healthfully.

When it comes to preventing and treating high blood pressure, one often-overlooked strategy is managing stress. If you often find yourself tense and on-edge, try these seven strategies to reduce stress.

1. Get enough sleep. Inadequate or poor-quality sleep can negatively affect your mood, mental alertness, energy level, and physical health.

2. Learn relaxation techniques. Meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, deep breathing exercises, and yoga are powerful stress-busters.

3. Strengthen your social network. Connect with others by taking a class, joining an organization, or participating in a support group.

4. Hone your time-management skills. The more efficiently you can juggle work and family demands, the lower your stress level.

5. Try to resolve stressful situations if you can. Don't let stressful situations fester. Hold family problem-solving sessions and use negotiation skills at home and at work.

6. Nurture yourself. Treat yourself to a massage. Truly savor an experience: for example, eat slowly and really focus on the taste and sensations of each bite. Take a walk or a nap, or listen to your favorite music.

7. Ask for help. Don't be afraid to ask for help from your spouse, friends, and neighbors. If stress and anxiety persist, talk to your doctor.

Add in a healthy lifestyle — maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, regular exercise, and a diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthful fats — and high blood pressure could be a thing of the past.

Source: Harvard Medical School: health.harvard.edu



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