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Keeping blood pressure under control is made easier with a few simple lifestyle changes.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects more than 73 million people in the U.S., and is one of the major causes of heart attack and stroke. Because too many people have the condition without knowing it, according to the American Heart Association, it is often called "the silent killer." The good news is that you can make lifestyle changes to help maintain healthy blood pressure and eliminate certain risk factors for the condition.

Here are seven steps for maintaining healthy blood pressure and eliminating risk factors:

Step 1: Get Your Blood Pressure Checked Regularly

High blood pressure can be present even when you have no symptoms, so it requires you to get your blood pressure checked regularly, especially if you are at higher risk.

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries and is measured using two number readings, systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure (top number) refers to the pressure when your heart contracts, pumping the blood, and diastolic pressure (bottom number) refers to the pressure when your heart is at rest. A blood pressure reading of higher than 140/90 mmHg is considered high blood pressure.

Some risk factors of which are not controllable include:

Age—the older you are, the higher the risk for developing high blood pressure.
Race—high blood pressure is most common in those of African descent.
Family history—those with a family history of hypertension have a greater chance of developing the condition.
Step 2: Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight is a risk factor for high blood pressure because it increases the volume of blood flowing through your vessels, causing an increase in pressure on artery walls. If overweight, losing a few pounds can help to lower high blood pressure and help you feel better.

The Isagenix® Cleansing and Fat Burning System is an excellent program for weight loss. This system includes nutritional cleansing and replacing meals with high-protein shakes. If you are on high-blood pressure medication, however, please be advised that you should check with your doctor before starting the system or any other weight-loss program.

Because lowering calories or "deep cleansing" can potentially lower blood pressure too quickly if you are on medication, it is important for your doctor to monitor you and make medication adjustments as appropriate. Your medication should only be changed with the help of your doctor (read below for more info on medications).

Step 3: Follow the DASH Eating Plan  

Eating healthy foods low in sodium can help you to not only get your weight under control, but your blood pressure as well. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Eating Plan emphasizes eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products to help you maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

Just decreasing the amount of sodium in your diet—eliminating processed foods, for example—as part of the DASH plan can go a long way in helping to reduce high blood pressure. Too much sodium can cause fluid retention, increasing blood pressure.

Instead of grabbing a frozen dinner, choose a healthier option such as the IsaLean® Shake, which is high in quality dairy protein, vitamins and minerals and low in saturated fat and sodium. Studies show that a diet higher in protein, especially from dairy, and lower in carbohydrates and sodium may help with maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

Step 3: Get Enough Omega-3s, Especially Those From Fish  

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats—from flax oil or coldwater fish—can help you maintain healthy blood pressure, according to observational, epidemiologic and some clinical trials. Out of all types of omega-3s, studies show that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from fish oil is the most effective for maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

To help maintain healthy blood pressure, eat coldwater fish three times a week (except those high in mercury such as swordfish) and/or take a high-dose fish oil supplement such as IsaOmega Supreme™ daily. (Those with high blood pressure should consult with their doctors before taking a daily high-dose fish oil supplement with DHA.) It's worth noting that the protein in fish (such as sardines) may also have healthy effects on blood pressure, according to studies.

Step 4: Exercise Regularly and Manage Stress

People who live a sedentary lifestyle tend to have an increased heart rate, causing the heart to work harder, which increases pressure on the arteries. Being physically active for at least 30 minutes a day can help maintain a healthy weight and lower blood pressure.

If you lead a busy lifestyle, always be sure to make time to relax in your day and listen to some music, practice deep breathing, or take a yoga class. A high-stress lifestyle can cause spikes in blood pressure, which can damage your arteries in the long run.

Step 6: Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol  

Tobacco can cause damage by narrowing the arteries and hardening them. This leads to increased blood pressure, so avoid the cigarettes and help your heart stay healthy.

In addition, too much drinking can damage arteries over time. Even a few alcoholic drinks a day—beer, wine, cocktails—can create a modest rise in blood pressure, so if you choose to drink alcohol keep to 1-2 drinks daily, preferably antioxidant-rich red wine.

Step 7: Follow Your Doctor's Advice on Blood Pressure Medications

Although changing your lifestyle can make a significant difference, occasionally it is not enough, and your doctor may recommend medication to help manage your blood pressure. According Dennis Harper, DO, Isagenix's Scientific Advisory Board Chair, there are several types of blood pressure medications:

*Beta blockers work by blocking the hormone epinephrine. This causes the heart to beat slower and with less force, which lowers blood pressure. This medication cannot be stopped suddenly because doing so can cause a rapid heart rate. Dr. Harper's note: Only reduce this medication under your doctor's supervision because it should be done gradually.

*Diuretics are medications that cause a person to urinate more frequently to get rid of water in the blood stream.Dr. Harper's note: If you are taking a diuretic, then you will need to have your doctor check your potassium levels before starting a weight-loss program or "deep cleansing." This is done with a simple blood test.

*Calcium channel blockers, such as nifedipine, work by widening the blood vessels, making it easier for the heart to pump blood. One of the problems with nifedipine is that it can cause swelling in the limbs.Dr. Harper's note: Once again, before starting any weight-loss program, you will need to speak to your doctor to adjust the dosage and monitor you.

*ACE inhibitors work on the kidney to block the production of rennin, which causes the vessels to become smaller, thereby increasing the blood pressure.

*Other arterial dilators.

You Can Make an Impact  

Many national and global organizations, such as the World Health Organization, recognize how lifestyle changes can make a positive impact on high blood pressure. By changing your lifestyle, you can help avoid the onset of high blood pressure, which also means avoidance of a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis. Over the long run, following the steps above to maintain a healthy blood pressure can lead to a longer, healthier life for you.

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