6 ways to control blood pressure to lower pandemic risks

Excerpt: Monitoring and controlling your blood pressure is especially important to safeguard your health during the pandemic because changes in activity, diet or stress could raise blood pressure levels without you knowing. Hypertension also increases the risk of serious complications from COVID-19. Keeping active, choosing heart-healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and meditation can all help to lower or keep your blood pressure in check, while reducing or eliminating reliance on medications.

May 17th is World Hypertension Day* and May is Hypertension Month.* Monitoring and controlling your blood pressure are especially important to safeguard your health during pandemic times.

Changes in diet, lower activity levels, weight gain or increased stress associated with the pandemic can each contribute to increases in blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the number one risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart disease,* according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Hypertension is also associated with poorer outcomes* for people who develop COVID-19, who have a higher risk for serious illness, hospitalization, and death,* reported a Journal of Human Hypertension study.

Managing blood pressure is good for brain and heart health, while also reducing the risk of COVID-19-related complications. Here are some practical tips to help you control or lower your blood pressure:

  1. Check in with your doctor and monitor blood pressure
    With fewer people visiting their doctors during the pandemic, it’s important to get guidance from your physician through virtual calls or in person about how often to check your blood pressure. Discuss any changes in your life that could potentially have a positive or adverse effect on your blood pressure. If you are on blood pressure medications, continue taking them as prescribed.

  2. Get moving and stay active
    Half an hour a day of moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, swimming, dancing, climbing stairs or household chores can help prevent or lower high blood pressure,* advises Mayo Clinic. Becoming more active can lower blood pressure as much as some blood pressure medications.*

  3. Choose heart-healthy foods
    The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan and a Mediterranean diet* are best-known for helping to reduce blood pressure. Or follow your own heart-healthy, balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, and lean protein, while limiting consumption of processed foods, salt, and alcohol. These approaches can help lower blood pressure and possibly avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication.*

  4. Enjoy regular, healthy sleep
    People who slept poorly showed increases in blood pressure during their restless night and the following day,* reported a Psychosomatic Medicine study. Sleep helps your body control hormones needed to regulate stress and metabolism, and a lack of sleep could cause swings in hormones that contribute to high blood pressure.*

  5. Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
    If a person is overweight, losing even 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms) can lower blood pressure.* As a person becomes slimmer, it may be possible to reduce the dose of blood pressure medication or stop taking it completely, only after this is approved by their doctor.*

  6. Calm your mind
    Meditation and other mind-body activities, like yoga and tai chi, can change how you cope with stress and help lower systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure,* advises Harvard Medical School.

*The following sources provided references for this blog, in order of appearance:
1. International Society of Hypertension. “World Hypertension Day.” (2021), online: https://ish-world.com/events/e/World-Hypertension-Day-3/
2. Hypertension Canada. “Hypertension Month.” (2021), online: https://hypertension.ca/hypertension-month/blood-pressure-screening/
3. Heart and Stroke Foundation. “High blood pressure.” (2020, online https://www.heartandstroke.ca/heart-disease/risk-and-prevention/condition-risk-factors/high-blood-pressure
4. Journal of Human Hypertension. “Managing hypertension during the COVID-19 pandemic.” (2020), online: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41371-020-0356-y
5. mobilehealthnews.com. “COVID-19 pandemic leads to more people with high blood pressure, research suggests.” (2020), online: https://www.mobihealthnews.com/news/covid-19-pandemic-leads-more-people-high-blood-pressure-research-suggests
6. Mayo Clinic. “Exercise: A drug-free approach to lowering high blood pressure.” (2019), online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20045206
7. Mayo Clinic. “Nutrition and healthy eating.” (2019), online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456?p=1
8. Science Daily. “Sleepless nights linked to high blood pressure.” (2019), online: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190604131159.htm This
9. Mayo Clinic. “Sleep deprivation: A cause of high blood pressure?” (2021), online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/sleep-deprivation/faq-20057959This
10. Mayo Clinic. “Blood pressure medication: Still necessary if I lose weight?” (2020), online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/blood-pressure-medication/faq-20058056
11. Harvard Health Publishing. “Mindfulness can improve heart health.” (2018), online: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/mindfulness-can-improve-heart-health