Having high blood pressure more than doubles our risk of heart-attack and stroke. But only a-third of people with high blood pressure have it under control. So, here are some lifestyle factors that put our blood pressure in the red zone, and how to keep it under control:

  • First: Inactivity. When we don’t exercise, our body stores more fat. And bigger bodies require a bigger blood supply, which puts extra strain on our heart, and triggers higher blood pressure. But you can drop your blood pressure by 10-points simply by getting 30-minutes of aerobic exercise every day. That’s because working out raises your blood pressure, which gives your body practice in bringing it back down. You’re essentially training your blood vessels to expand and contract easily. If exercise isn’t your thing, try this: Simply squeeze a rubber ball. It helps a lot, actually. According to a study, people who did that for 8 weeks lowered their systolic blood pressure by 15 points and their diastolic pressure by five. And that’s a bigger drop than you get from aerobic exercise. And all it takes is 2 minutes of squeezing, four times a day. 

  • The 2nd factor that raises blood pressure: Salt. People who consume the most sodium chop their lifespan by 7 years. To cut your sodium intake, mix up your own salt substitute: Use half regular salt, a quarter salt substitute, and a quarter Epsom salt. Mix it together and stick it in your saltshaker. The salt substitute is loaded with potassium, which regulates blood pressure. And Epsom salt is loaded with magnesium, which reduces inflammation, a symptom of high blood pressure.  

  • One last high blood pressure factor: Alcohol. Having more than two drinks dilates blood vessels in a way that increases blood pressure. That’s why doctors say, if you really want a drink, make it one Bloody Mary a day. Because it’s basically tomato juice, which contains an antioxidant proven to lower our heart disease risk. Plus, a study in the American Heart Journal found that people who drank tomato juice daily for 8 weeks saw a 10-point drop in their blood pressure.