If you don't have high blood pressure now, odds are you will. About 31 percent of adult Americans have hypertension, but more than 66 percent of people over age 60 do, because blood pressure tends to increase with age. You might not know you have it, however—there aren't any symptoms. "Your first clue may be a heart attack," says Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center and the author of Disease-Proof: The Remarkable Truth about What Makes Us Well. "That's why hypertension is called the silent killer."
A few simple things can bring those important numbers in line. The usual advice still holds—cut down on salt, quit smoking, eat lots of fruits and veggies, and do cardio exercise—but some of the new recommendations are even easier to follow.
1. Eat low-fat, low-sugar yogurt
People who ate one or more 6-ounce servings of yogurt twice a week over 14 years were about 31 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than people who didn't eat yogurt, found a recent study.
Just don't fall for these shady Greek yogurt nutrition myths.
2. Lift weights
In a study, women who pumped iron cut systolic blood pressure (SBP; the first number) by 5 points and diastolic (DBP; the second) by 9 points—and the effects lasted longer after the workout than for women who did cardio. Get the best of both worlds by doing both kinds of exercise, alternating days.
If you’re not strength-training, find out the 9 Reasons Every Woman Needs To Lift Weights -- then head to the dumbbells!
3. Drink faux red wine
A recent study found that nonalcoholic red wine lowers blood pressure (SBP by 5.8 points and DBP by 2.3 points) after 4 weeks. But any antioxidant-rich food or beverage will do, says Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health at NYU Langone Medical Center.
4. Enjoy a little sun
Keeping up your levels of vitamin D by exposing your face, arms, and legs to the sun about 15 minutes 3 days a week might lower your blood pressure if you're deficient. "Vitamin D helps arteries relax and improves their functioning," says Dr. Arshed Quyyumi, a professor of cardiology at Emory University School of Medicine. His study found that D-deficient people who'd reached normal levels 6 months later saw their blood pressures go down an average of 4.6 points. No sun for you? Ask your doc to recommend a supplement.
5. Hang with pals
Loneliness boosts SBP an average of 3 points a year over 5 years, found a 2010 study. "Take your social relationships seriously," says Louise Hawkley, the study author and a senior research scientist at the University of Chicago (and keep in mind these 8 friends every woman needs.)