According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 75 million Americans have high blood pressure. Many risk factors for high blood pressure are out of your control, such as age, family history, gender, and race. But there are also factors you can control, such as exercise and diet. A diet that can help control blood pressure is rich in potassium, magnesium, and fiber and lower in sodium.
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.)
Research on the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet shows that eating at least 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day can reduce blood pressure about as much as medication. Fruits and vegetables are high in potassium, which helps to balance sodium in your cells to reduce pressure in your blood vessel and has shown to lower risk for stroke. Try to incorporate at least one piece or serving of a fruit or vegetable (or both) into each snack, and include about ½ plate of fruits and vegetables into all your meals.
Kiwis are another fruit that positively impacts blood pressure. Some researchers studied how the fruit fares compared to apples. They found that eating three kiwis a day over eight weeks reduced blood pressure in people with slightly high blood pressure more so than eating one apple per day during the same time. A daily serving of kiwi was also found to reduce blood pressure in people with only mildly elevated levels. Kiwis are also an excellent source of vitamin C which can also also improve blood pressure.
In addition to these methods being effective, other lifestyle changes and diet adjustments may also be useful in lower blood pressure. One study explains that losing weight can have a significant positive impact on patients that have been diagnosed with hypertension. Even small reductions in bodyweight amongst those individuals who are both obese and hypertensive can yield life-saving benefits. Dietary changes can also help. In particular, the patient should aim to lower their daily intake of sodium, which causes an elevation in blood pressure. The patient should also focus on obtaining more calcium, potassium and other minerals that are useful in balancing blood pressure levels. Fiber, fruits and a lot of vegetables should also be an essential part of the patient’s daily diet.
As high blood pressure often goes unnoticed, it’s common for people to live with it unawares for some time. As it’s a risk factor, it may be wise to check your blood pressure every few years, even if you’re feeling healthy in general. This advice is especially directed towards people who are middle-aged or older, as high blood pressure is more common with age.
Dairy or soy—it’s your choice. Replacing some of the refined carbohydrates in your diet with foods high in soy or milk protein (like tofu or low-fat dairy) can bring down systolic blood pressure if you have hypertension or prehypertension, findings suggest. "Some patients get inflammation from refined carbohydrates, which will increase blood pressure," says Matthew J. Budoff, MD, FACC, Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine and Director of Cardiac CT at the Division of Cardiology at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
CoQ10 is a naturally occurring enzyme. It contains antioxidants that are good for maintaining cardiac health. CoQ10 has been shown to decrease blood pressure and reduces the thickening of the heart muscle (hypertrophy). There are no known side effects of CoQ10 since it naturally occurs in the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, for the treatment of hypertension, take 60-360 milligrams daily for 8-12 weeks.
Caffeine can raise blood pressure by tightening blood vessels and magnifying the effects of stress, says James Lane, PhD, a Duke University researcher who studies caffeine and cardiovascular health. "When you're under stress, your heart starts pumping a lot more blood, boosting blood pressure," he says. "And caffeine exaggerates that effect." (Not sure whether you need to cut back? Here are 6 physical symptoms that mean you're drinking too much coffee.)