No pressure! At-home techniques to manage that 120-over-80

Reducing sodium and mindful breathing certainly help — but don’t forget to include your doctor

Thanks to the prevalence of at-home devices and drugstores machines, blood pressure is fairly easy to check. But that doesn’t mean you can self-diagnose after a single reading.

“If you get a high reading at a store, make an appointment with your primary care doctor to follow up. Before we make a diagnosis, we’ll take two separate readings on different days, and we’ll also look at your family history, your current medications and other health factors,” says Dr. Mariana A. Frias Garcia who practices Family Medicine at Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed) Canyon Park in Bothell. “If the first reading doesn’t show high blood pressure, we’ll bring you back another day for a second check.”

Common symptoms of high blood pressure include headaches, blurry vision and shortness of breath, but Dr. Frias Garcia says some patients have high blood pressure even without symptoms.

“When in doubt, reach out to your primary care doctor. We can guide you and help answer all your questions.”

Simple solutions to high blood pressure

Eat well

“If you have high blood pressure your doctor will encourage you to watch your diet. It’s important to restrict your sodium to no more than 2300 milligrams each day,” Dr. Frias Garcia says.

Usually that means eating less processed foods and more meals made from whole ingredients.

“In general, frozen vegetables contain much less sodium than the same vegetable in a can,” she says. “Read the labels on your food, and watch for high sodium.” Instead of salt, use spices to bring up flavors. Reducing your caffeine intake can also help keep your blood pressure in check.


Regular physical exercise, about 30 minutes a day, will strengthen your heart and also help you maintain a healthy weight — both keys to lower blood pressure.


“Incorporate mindfulness and breathing exercises into your day. I teach my patients simple techniques that activate the vagus nerve and parasympathetic system,” Dr. Frias Garcia says.

One of those exercises is the 4-7-8 breathing technique developed by Dr. Andrew Weil: inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds and exhale for eight seconds.

“Studies show it helps lower blood pressure, and also helps with anxiety, sleep and other health issues.”


Your doctor may prescribe medication to help manage your blood pressure. If they do, take it as prescribed.

“You can’t always feel the effects of high blood pressure, and you may be tempted to stop taking your medication if you’re not experiencing symptoms,” Dr. Frias Garcia says. “But it’s extremely important to take medications as prescribed, and talk to your doctor before making any changes.”

Dr. Frias Garcia’s family medicine practice is open to people of all ages, from newborns to geriatrics, in both English and Spanish. Make an appointment with Dr. Frias Garcia at Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed) Canyon Park, 1909 214th St. SE, in Bothell, by calling 425-412-7200 or book online.

FURTHER READING: In English and en Español, helping Bothell stay healthy!

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