One notable recommendation within the new guidelines is the focus on lifestyle changes first, and medication only if necessary. Like all meds, blood pressure medications come with their side effects, so it’s always worth it to work on diet, exercise and stress management first. Even if an individual receives only partial benefits from lifestyle changes, it may still mean reduced medication usage, or one with fewer side effects if necessary. Here are a few lifestyle changes that you start today to reduce your blood pressure naturally.
One of the easiest ways to manage your blood pressure is simply making healthy life choices such as eating low-sodium diet, committing to a regular exercise routine, and avoiding (excessive) alcohol. Smoking is one of the worst things that you can do to your cardiovascular system, and it’s important that you take steps to quit as soon as possible to avoid hypertension, even if you don’t yet suffer from it yet.
Such monitoring provides excellent information for patients and doctors. In fact, research shows that ABPM is a better predictor of future cardiovascular events (e.g. heart attacks, strokes) than conventional office-based BP measurements are. However, ABPM is not yet widely available, since it requires special equipment and may not be covered by insurance.
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.
Johns Hopkins researchers have identified the genes responsible for aortic ballooning and the sequence of events leading to aortic aneurysms. Dr. Hal Dietz currently conducts clinical trials of therapies for people with inherited aortic aneurysms to improve health and quality of life for these patients.Learn more about Dr. Deitz and his aortic ballooning therapies.
Pickering TG, et al. Recommendations for blood pressure measurement in humans and experimental animals: Part 1: blood pressure measurement in humans: a statement for professionals from the Subcommittee of Professional and Public Education of the American Heart Association Council on High Blood Pressure Research. Hypertension. 2005 Jan;45(1):142-61.
In addition to medications your doctor may prescribe, there are several lifestyle changes you can make to help to lower your blood pressure. These include things like eating a healthy diet, maintaining a regular exercise routine, quitting smoking and limiting your alcohol intake. Here are five more blood pressure-reducing techniques that don’t require a prescription:
1) Raw almonds. Eating just a handful of truly raw almonds every day can make a significant difference in keeping your blood pressure levels in check. A key component of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Diet, also known as DASH, raw almonds are rich in monounsaturated fats, which have been scientifically proven to help lower blood cholesterol levels, reduce arterial inflammation, and ultimately lower blood pressure levels.
There are many popular medical myths about high blood pressure. For example, many physicians believe that high blood pressure is an “inevitable consequence of aging;” that the “only viable treatment option for high blood pressure patients is medication”; that high blood pressure patients must take their medications “for the rest of their lives”; and, worst of all, that high blood pressure medications are “safe and effective.”
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has been proven best for controlling blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. People who follow the diet eat 2,000 calories a day of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods and whole grains. The diet is rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium, as well as protein and fiber, and low in sodium. Foods on the diet are low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol.
Meditate or take slow, steady deep breaths to calm the nervous system, relax and your dilate blood vessels. Breathing exercises help calm your sympathetic nervous system and your fight-or-flight response. This technique also encourages blood flow to your body’s tissues and causes your diaphragm to move up and down, which eases blood flow to your heart.
“I always recommend that people find something that they enjoy doing to stay in shape. For example, line dancing, walking outside, and riding a bike are all good ways to get active,” says Scott Parker, a health and fitness trainer and a national spokesperson for #GoRedGetFit — an online fitness challenge for women hosted by the AHA and Macy’s. “It’s also important to find other people you like doing the activity with, because that helps you stick with it.”
Often, hypertension can improve with lifestyle changes. In some cases, high blood pressure can go down to normal levels with only lifestyle modifications, particularly if you have stage 1 hypertension (systolic blood pressure of 130 mmHg to 159 mmHg, or diastolic blood pressure 80 mmHg to 99 mmHg), or if you have elevated blood pressure (systolic blood of 120 mmHg to 129 mmHg and diastolic less than 80 mmHg).
Sleep apnea, diabetes, and stress, each of which may be controlled (though this can be difficult), can also put a strain on the cardiovascular system and intensify blood pressure and related problems. Factors that put you in a high-risk category but that are difficult (or impossible) to control include family history, gender, and chronic kidney disease.
People with high blood pressure who drank about eight ounces of beetroot juice experienced a decrease in blood pressure of about 10 mm Hg, according to a study published in April 2013 in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension. The magic ingredient? Nitrate, which turns into nitric oxide, a gas that widens blood vessels and aids blood flow. A glass a day could help keep blood pressure at a lower, healthier level. Here are 31 things you can do right now to avoid high blood pressure.
Regular visits with your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is well-controlled, check with your doctor about how often you need to check it. Your doctor may suggest checking it daily or less often. If you're making any changes in your medications or other treatments, your doctor may recommend you check your blood pressure starting two weeks after treatment changes and a week before your next appointment.
If you’re eating more fruits and vegetables, you’re already taking a positive step toward reducing salt and enhancing potassium intake. Sodium can be found in abundance in processed foods – anything that comes in a package, can, or especially from a fast food restaurant. If you’re over 50, or at higher risk, aim for no more than 1,500 mg/day. Check your food labels for sodium content. If you see that a food has more than 400-500 mg in a serving, see if there’s a lower-sodium option.