As an interventional cardiologist who practices a wide scope of cardiology, managing his patients’ blood pressure is something Dr. Thomas Earl, MD, of McLaren Northern Michigan in Petoskey, Michigan, knows well.

Often Dr. Earl sees his patients when they’re suffering a heart attack or another kind of medical catastrophe. “I really do my best to try to focus on prevention on the other end of that spectrum before something terrible happens,” he shares. And that includes educating them on taking ownership of their own health.

One recommendation Dr. Earl stresses is for patients to get their blood pressure checked regularly. “High blood pressure is super common. Close to two-thirds of people over the age of 60 in this country will have high blood pressure. And for the most part it’s asymptomatic. What I mean by that is there aren’t a lot of symptoms associated with it. So it’s important to have your blood pressure evaluated at least once a year.”

And what if a patient’s blood pressure is too high? What’s next?

Here are Dr. Earl’s tips on managing your blood pressure via lifestyle modifications, before resorting to medication.

  • Follow a healthy diet—particularly a low-sodium diet with 2400 mg of sodium a day or less.
  • Get regular exercise. “It has a role in keeping blood pressure low, and even helping to lower it.”
  • Drink alcohol in moderation—one to two drinks per day at a maximum.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Control other health issues like high cholesterol and diabetes.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight. “This is also critically important, as losing or gaining as little as 10 pounds can impact your blood pressure in a good or a bad way.”

Read MyNorth Medical Insider for more tips from Northern Michigan specialists.