Gregg Talente, MD
Palmetto Health-USC Internal Medicine
“If you want a reason to get out walking every day, adopt a dog,” said Gregg Talente, MD, Palmetto Health-USC Internal Medicine. “Dogs have been shown to keep your blood pressure down and help with heart health because they make us more active.”
Dr. Talente explained that blood pressure is the force your blood makes against your artery walls when your heart beats. If this force is too high, you may be diagnosed with hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure can cause damage to your heart and raise your risk for heart disease. So, what can you do to prevent this from happening?
First, you need to know your risk factors. Some risk factors you cannot change include your age, race and having a family history of hypertension. Some risk factors you can change are having an unhealthy diet, not exercising, smoking and being overweight.
Second, you need to learn how to make these lifestyle changes. Dr. Talente shared the following information:
- Know your numbers. Hypertension occurs when your blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. A normal blood pressure is considered to be around 120/80. To know if you actually have high blood pressure, you need to have your blood pressure checked by your doctor regularly.
- Exercise at least 4-5 times for 20-30 minutes a week. Inactivity is one of the factors that can increase your risk of hypertension, so staying active multiple times a week every week can help lower that risk. Walking, running and boot camps are great examples of exercises you can do.
- Eat a healthy diet. Eating 4 to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and avoiding fatty foods and sweets can help when it comes to lowering your blood pressure. Dr. Talente also recommends finding new spices that you can substitute for salt when you’re cooking, since high salt intake can increase your blood pressure.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is another factor that can increase your risk of hypertension. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are the keys to losing and maintaining your weight. Being at a healthy weight is also a great benefit to your overall health, not just your heart health.
- See your physician regularly. High blood pressure shows little to no symptoms, so it’s important to see your physician annually to get your numbers checked. Your physician can also help you create a hypertension prevention plan or prescribe medications if needed.
Whether you have high blood pressure or mild high blood pressure, these tips can be used toward getting your blood pressure back down to a target number. However, sometimes people can follow all of these steps and still require medication to regulate their blood pressure. “This is why it’s important to see a physician regularly and follow their instructions carefully,” said Dr. Talente.
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