The calculated difference between the systolic and diastolic pressures is also of interest. If the difference is large (e.g. 170/85), it could be the sign of stiff arteries – often caused by heart disease. This means the blood vessels can’t dilate enough when the heart sends out a pulse, which forces the blood pressure to increase. (The walls can’t expand, so the pressure rises when the heart tries to pump the blood through.)
While making these changes may not mean you can immediately go off your blood pressure medications or never have to take them, they will improve your overall health and reduce your risk for developing other diseases, including diabetes and possibly even cancer. Making healthy lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of stroke, heart attack or kidney damage, and reduce the likelihood that your dose of blood pressure medication will need to be increased in the future.
Many factors can cause your blood pressure to rise, and each factor may or may not require medication. Many people make lifestyle changes that lower their blood pressure without medication; especially for pre-hypertension and stage 1 of hypertension. Also, each time you take your blood pressure, make sure you are still and calm, sitting with both feet on the floor, arm supported on a flat surface, and you are measuring at the same time everyday. You can also take multiple readings in one sitting, but wait one minute between each reading. These steps will ensure you are providing your healthcare provider with the most accurate blood pressure reading!
Editor’s Note: Considerable controversy exists about whether fat or cholesterol are, per se, drivers of atherosclerosis. They are implicated in some studies, while others indicate that quality of fat, and placement in a wider dietary pattern, may be more significant to ultimate impact. What seems clear, however, is that a diet high in animal products, sugar, and processed foods is often a recipe for high blood pressure and heart disease.
If you have hypertension, ask your doctor if OSA could be behind it. (In addition to loud snoring, common symptoms include excessive daytime tiredness and early morning headaches.) Getting your sleep apnea under control could be helpful for improving your blood pressure, says Robert Greenfield, MD, Medical Director of Non-Invasive Cardiology & Cardiac Rehabilitation at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA.
Arteries are naturally flexible and smooth, which allows blood to easily move throughout the body. High blood pressure creates extra force against the artery walls, which damages the lining of the arteries. As they become narrower and harder, this restricts blood flow, and when blood flow is lowered, the heart has to work harder to pump it through the body, which only makes the problem worse.
3) Coconut water. Rich in potassium, electrolytes, and other important nutrients, coconut water has been shown to help significantly lower blood pressure levels in most of the people that drink it. A recent study published in the West Indian Medical Journal found that drinking coconut water helped 71 percent of participants achieve a significant reduction in systolic pressure, and 29 percent of participants achieve a significant reduction in diastolic pressure. The results were even more amplified when participants drank both coconut water and mauby, a tropical drink made from buckthorn tree bark.
A study, done in December of 2009, was published in the Indian Journal of Biochemistry & Biophysics. They gave a group of participants 1 teaspoon of cardamom powder daily for several weeks. The results showed a significant reduction in blood pressure. Combined with ginger and cinnamon, both warming spices that improve circulation, you can make a lovely tea to help your heart get healthy.
If you’re interested in working with a personal trainer but are concerned about the cost, Parker notes that trainers don’t have to be expensive. Some trainers offer group sessions that are cheaper than individual training sessions. College students getting degrees in kinesiology, the study of human movement or physical activity, also train people at reduced cost.
Exercise is the soulmate to eating right. You’re more likely to lose weight if you exercise and follow a healthy diet. Official recommendations call for at least half an hour of exercise most days of the week. The effects can be dramatic: Blood pressure drops of 4 to 9 points. Remember that exercise isn’t just going to the gym. It can be gardening, washing your car, or housework. But things that get your heart rate up -- aerobic activities -- like walking, dancing, jogging, riding your bike, and swimming are best for your heart.

4) Raw cacao. Rich in flavonoids and other anti-inflammatory nutrients, raw cacao is another food-based weapon against hypertension that you will want to keep readily stocked in your health arsenal. Not only do the flavonoids in cacao function as adaptogens to help the body better deal with stress, which is a common cause of hypertension, but they also help regulate stress hormone levels throughout the body, which play a critical role in blood pressure regulation.


The sweet serves up flavanols that help lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels and boosting blood flow. On average, regular dark chocolate consumption could help lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 5 points and your diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by almost 3 points, suggests an Australian analysis. How dark are we talking? Experts haven't been able to determine an ideal percentage of cocoa, says Vivian Mo, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. But the higher you go, the more benefits you'll get.
If you are in good health and prefer to minimize your cardiovascular risk, it could be reasonable to aim for a lower BP goal, such as that in the SPRINT study. I would just encourage caution about bringing that morning reading down further. You could discuss whether diet or other lifestyle changes might help you bring down BP, and then you could also talk to your doctor about adjusting your BP medications.
Various organizations including the United States Department of Agriculture recommend that Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. But the ideal limit is really no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. Unfortunately, the average sodium intake of Americans is more than 3,400 mg per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is partly because sodium is so easy to consume — just 1 teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium.

There are many good options when it comes to such medication. Examples are ACE (angiotensin-converting-enzyme) inhibitors or AII-blockers (angiotensin II receptor blockers) such as Enalapril or Losartan. If this kind of medication doesn’t give the desired effect, you might have to add other medication such as so-called calcium antagonists (e.g. Felodipin) or a mild diuretic (can be found as a combined pill with Enalapril and Losartan).
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