To decrease sodium in your diet, consider these tips:
- Track how much salt is in your diet. Keep a food diary to estimate how much sodium is in what you eat and drink each day.
- Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy.
- Eat fewer processed foods. Potato chips, frozen dinners, bacon and processed lunch meats are high in sodium.
- Don't add salt. Just 1 level teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Use herbs or spices, rather than salt, to add more flavor to your foods.
- Ease into it. If you don't feel like you can drastically reduce the sodium in your diet suddenly, cut back gradually. Your palate will adjust over time.
5. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. In small amounts, it can potentially lower your blood pressure by 2 to 4 mm Hg. But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol -- generally more than one drink a day for women and men older than age 65, or more than two a day for men age 65 and younger. Also, if you don't normally drink alcohol, you shouldn't start drinking as a way to lower your blood pressure. There's more potential harm than benefit to drinking alcohol.
If you drink more than moderate amounts of it, alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of high blood pressure medications.
- Track your drinking patterns. Along with your food diary, keep an alcohol diary to track your true drinking patterns. One drink equals 12 ounces (355 milliliters, or mL) of beer, 5 ounces of wine (148 mL) or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor (45 mL). If you're drinking more than the suggested amounts, cut back.
- Consider tapering off. If you're a heavy drinker, suddenly eliminating all alcohol can actually trigger severe high blood pressure for several days. So when you stop drinking, do it with the supervision of your doctor or taper off slowly, over one to two weeks.
- Don't binge. Binge drinking -- having four or more drinks in a row -- can cause large and sudden increases in blood pressure, in addition to other health problems.