how to lower blood pressure
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It's time to schedule a checkup — stat. If your blood pressure is 130/80 or above, that's now considered high (a drop from the previous 140/90), according to the latest guidelines from the . The shift increases the number of adult Americans who have high blood pressure from a third to nearly half. Why the change? Your ticker is at risk even at 130/80. Fortunately, there are easy ways to lower your numbers and return to the healthy zone.

1. Write down key numbers.

At your appointment, ask the doctor for your current stats — chiefly blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, waistline measurement, and BMI — and how they compare with the targets for women. Record everything in the Women's Heart Alliance's free pocket list (get one at ). At your next visit, update your numbers to track your progress.

2. Look into weight loss counseling.

If you have hypertension or diabetes, some insurance plans will cover services such as nutrition and fitness counseling. Call your provider to see if you qualify. Good news for those with Medicare Part B: Weight-loss sessions are covered if your BMI is 30 or more.

3. Join a group.

Feeling isolated hikes your heart-disease risk by 29%, found a study in the journal Heart. So sign up for an organization that provides emotional support and expert advice, like the , a free online community. Also, if you have a heart condition, visit to find one of its local peer support groups.

4. Eat more fruits and veggies.

With every extra serving of produce you have beyond two a day, your chances of dying from heart disease drop slightly, according to an Oxford University study. But how you cook vegetables also matters, as deep-frying breaks down vitamins and nutrients. Instead, eat veggies raw, or steam, blanch or roast them until just crisp-tender, then top with a little olive oil.

5. Make a bet.

Don't just pledge to move more — put cold hard cash on the line. Research in the shows that the threat of losing something, like money, is a more powerful motivator than the promise of earning a future prize. Try a free app like that lets you select a goal such as 10,000 steps a day, set the stakes (say, $5), and choose a time frame to achieve it. If you fail, your credit card will be charged.

6. Spice up your meals.

Good news for fans of fiery food! Heat lover consumed 2,500 mg less salt a day and had lower blood pressure than those who preferred milder fare, per a study in the journal . Researchers believe hot foods may make you sensitive to the taste of salt so you eat less of it.

7. Say yes to yogurt.

Eating yogurt five times a week is linked to a 30% reduction in heart attack risk among women with high blood pressure, says a new study in the . The calcium in dairy helps bring blood pressure down, and fermented foods like yogurt may make blood vessels less rigid.

8. Channel your inner artist.

Creating art, whether sculpting clay figures or drawing with markers, significantly reduces the stress-related hormones that can raise your risk of high blood pressure, a found. Why? Focusing on your masterpiece can distract you from anxiety triggers.

9. Pump up protein.

People who ate the most protein — around 3.5 ounces a day — had a 40% lower risk of hypertension, a study discovered. If you opt for meat, avoid overcooking it: Those who like meat well-done are more likely to develop high blood pressure.

10. Opt for outdoors.

A dose of nature is just what the doctor ordered. Spending at least a half hour per week in a green space can significantly cut your risk of high blood pressure, according to researchers in Australia and the U.K. If everyone did, they estimate there would be 9% fewer cases of hypertension.

SOURCES: Holly Andersen, MD, director of education. Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute, The New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, director, Women's Heart Health, Heart and Vascular Institute, Northwell Health Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City. Jennifer Haythe, M.D., cardiologist at Columbia University Medical Center. Sarah Samaan, M.D., physician partner, Baylor Scott and White, the Heart Hospital.

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