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Hi there,

How did it go today with getting moving in some way for 30-60 minutes?

The challenge for tomorrow is to "Check your vices: Alcohol, caffeine, smoking." For some of you, these won't be an issue, so take it as another chance to practice one habit that you might have missed. (Check the Tracking sheet if you need a reminder.) But if you smoke or drink alcohol or caffeine-containing beverages, here's what the blood pressure guidelines say:

Smoking
No surprise, if you smoke, the advice is to quit. The trickier question is how. Your doctor should be able to help. Prefer online support? Hypertension Canada recommends the I Quit Now website for a free self-paced step-by-step program, support community, and specialists available online or on the phone.

Quitting may take several attempts, so don't get discouraged if you have to try more than once.

Caffeine
Good news coffee lovers, a moderate amount of caffeine is fine, as long as:
  1. It's not in the hour or so before you measure your blood pressure.
  2. Your hypertension is controlled. (If it's not, and these lifestyle habits don't do the trick, talk to your doctor about medication. There are plenty of affordable options with few side effects.)
While coffee might raise your blood pressure for 1-3 hours, the effect is small and temporary. Long term use of caffeine isn't thought to cause or worsen hypertension or cardiovascular disease in general. 

So how much is too much? The American College of Cardiology blood pressure guideline says to generally limit to less than 300mg a day, while Health Canada goes with 400mg for adults, except women who are breastfeeding or may become pregnant: 300mg. 

It's not that amounts greater than this are known to be harmful. It's just that we have the best quality studies in amounts at or below this level, to say with confidence that it's generally fine in terms of blood pressure. 

How does that compare to your morning brew? Coffee ranges from 76 to 179mg per 8-oz cup, depending on the way it's prepared. Tea is 30-50mg. You can find coffee details and other sources here, including pop and various kinds of chocolate. 

Keep in mind that an medium cup of coffee at Tim Horton's is 15oz. The travel mug on my desk right now is 20oz. So you might have two "cups" in your cup, if you know what I mean. Still drinking 2-3 (8 oz) cups of coffee or even more tea is generally fine. 

If you feel you should cut back, do so gradually to minimize withdrawal symptoms, and experiment with replacement beverages, like various flavours of tea, to see if you can find something similarly comforting and energizing.

Alcohol
While most studies show that alcohol in moderation is associated with (not necessarily a cause of) fewer heart problems, the effect isn't so strong or consistent as to make drinking a recommendation, especially given the known risks, from accidents to cancer. 

If you do drink, in terms of blood pressure, Hypertension Canada suggests limiting alcohol to ≤2 "drinks" per day and ≤14 per week for men, ≤9 for women.

As with coffee, alcoholic beverages sometimes come in larger sizes than the standards referenced in the guidelines. One standard drink is approximately:
  • 5 oz (148 mL) of 12% wine
  • 12 oz (355 mL, a standard can or bottle) of 5% beer
  • 1.5 oz (44 mL) of 80 proof (40%) spirits
A bottle of wine is 750 mL, or about 5 standard drinks, so if you're regularly splitting one with a friend, one or both of you are drinking too much for healthy blood pressure. In my experience, restaurants and bars routinely serve wine in 6-9 oz portions. A pint glass of beer is 16-20 oz.

So again, you might be into your second "drink" while you think you're still enjoying your first. Order a second and you'll be over the recommended amount. 

If you feel you should cut back, here are 11 ways to curb your drinking. And if you find you need more help than this, reach out to your doctor.

Okay, hopefully I didn't just ruin your weekend! Any questions, let me know. You can hit reply and email me confidentially, or post in the Facebook group.

Links in case you need them: Take care,
- Cheryl
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