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Hypertension prevention tip #1: Love people

High blood pressure is a serious, chronic condition that contributes to nearly 1,300 deaths a day across the U.S. More than 1 in 4 adults in Washington state have high blood pressure, also called hypertension.

Preventing hypertension—and managing the disease well if you have it—is critical to avoiding heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. One of the most effective and natural ways to take care of your heart is to use lifestyle medicine principles. Positive, healthy life changes, including exercising and getting enough sleep, can make a huge impact on your well-being.

What’s more, lifestyle changes can be a delight to implement, allowing you to try new foods and experiences and spend more time with the people you care about.

Let’s focus on the “love people” lifestyle medicine principle. It may sound woo-woo, but connecting with others is important. Building and maintaining relationships with friends and family members supports good health. Something as simple as petting an animal or hugging a loved one can reduce blood pressure.

What’s more, a strong support system can help you develop healthy habits. Friends and family can encourage you to start or maintain an exercise program, join you in pursuing better health, and cheer you on as you make changes. When you are sick, your support system can also drop off meals or drive you to the doctor’s office.

If you find you need support beyond your family and friends, consider joining an exercise, volunteer, or social group. This may put you in touch with people who can give you an emotional boost or extra motivation.

Investing in relationships is truly good for your heart and health. I encourage all of my patients to prioritize human connection as part of hypertension prevention.

Dr. Joan Hunter is an internist at Vancouver Clinic. She enjoys working with patients to help them make small changes that lead to better wellness. She has a special interest in women’s health and lifestyle medicine.