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We suggest simple steps to keep your blood pressure under control

High blood pressure contributes to an alarming number of deaths each year. Although it may not have apparent symptoms, high blood pressure leads to heart attacks and strokes aside from also causing kidney failure. You can reduce your blood pressure by reducing your weight (if you’re obese) and making a few small changes in your life, say doctors.

- Walk it out — Walking at a brisk pace can help lower your pressure. A good workout will ensure the heart uses oxygen more efficiently. Getting a rigorous cardio workout 4 to 5 times a week can make a huge difference. Start by incorporating about 15 minutes of exercise in your daily routine and slowly increase the time and difficulty level.

- Deep Breathing — Learning some slow breathing and meditation techniques can do you wonders. It will help reduce stress drastically and keep your blood pressure in check. Try taking out 10 minutes every morning and at night. Inhale and exhale deeply. If you can, join a yoga class for some time so that you can learn the proper method.

- Go for potassium-rich foods — You have probably heard of the negative effects of sodium on the body and potassium is an essential mineral to counter the effects of sodium on blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium. Try adding sweet potatoes, tomatoes, orange juice, potatoes, bananas, peas, and prunes and raisins to your regular diet.

- Go slow on the salt — Whether you have a family history of high blood pressure or not, reducing your intake of salt can make a huge difference to your health. Before adding that extra pinch of salt to your food, think if you really need it. Try substituting salt with lime, garlic, pepper or other herbs and spices. Go slow on processed and packaged foods. Potato chips, frozen chicken nuggets, bacon etc are high in sodium. Try calculating your daily sodium consumption. Keep a food diary and you may be surprised at how much you're taking in.

- Dark chocolate benefits — The darker variety of chocolate has flavonols that make blood vessels more elastic. Choose one that has at least 70 per cent cocoa to really reap the benefits.

- Alcohol alert — While it does provide some health benefits, alcohol can also be bad for your health. If consumed in small amounts, it can help prevent heart attacks and coronary artery disease. But, more than one or two drinks and the benefits are gone. Keep a check on your drinking patterns and if you're a heavy drinker, start reducing slowly. Never indulge in binge drinking. Consuming four or five drinks in a row can cause a sudden increase in blood pressure.

- Tea benefits — Herbal teas are the way to go. In a study conducted, those who sipped on hibiscus tea daily lowered their blood pressure. Many herbal teas contain hibiscus or you can always opt for green tea. The effects of caffeine are still debatable. Drinking caffeinated beverages can temporarily increase pressure. The solution is to check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a cup of coffee to determine if it works for your body.

- Reduce work and relax — Reducing the number of hours you spend in office can help lower hypertension. Working overtime makes it hard to exercise and eat healthy. Ensure that you get out of office at a decent hour. Learning to relax by listening to soothing music (Classical, Oriental or Indian instrumental) can help.