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July 4, 2013

7 ways to keep stress—and blood pressure—down

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 of 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 focusing 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, ask your doctor whether anti-anxiety medications could be helpful.

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.

For more information on lifestyle changes to treat high blood pressure and choosing the right medication, buy Hypertension: Controlling the “Silent Killer” by Harvard Medical School.