In one 2009 study, every hour less of average sleep duration per night was associated with a 37% increase in the odds of developing hypertension over five years. In another report from 2015, people with sleep apnea—a dangerous condition that can cause hypertension in itself—saw reductions in their blood pressure when they were treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines or mandibular advancement devices (MADs).
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 have not been active for quite some time or if you are beginning a new activity or exercise program, take it gradually. Consult your healthcare professional if you have cardiovascular disease or any other preexisting condition. It's best to start slowly with something you enjoy, like taking walks or riding a bicycle. Scientific evidence strongly shows that physical activity is safe for almost everyone. Moreover, the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks.
Drugs that can cause hypertension include acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), antidepressants, corticosteroids, birth control pills and other hormones, migraine medications, nasal decongestants, and over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. Don’t stop taking a medicine without talking with your doctor first; you may be able to take a replacement or adjust your dosage.
The very first thing your primary care doctors at The Medical Group of South Florida do when you come in for a visit is check your blood pressure. That’s because high blood pressure can cause heart attacks and strokes, and rarely produces detectable symptoms in sufferers until it has done serious damage. Other associated illnesses can include kidney disease, blindness, and dementia.
Eat potassium- and magnesium-rich foods. Potassium can help regulate your heart rate and can reduce the effect that sodium has on your blood pressure. Foods like bananas, melons, oranges, apricots, avocados, dairy, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tuna, salmon, beans, nuts, and seeds have lots of potassium. Magnesium is thought to help blood vessels relax, making it easier for blood to pass through. Foods rich in magnesium include vegetables, dairy, chicken, legumes, and whole grains. It’s better to get vitamins and minerals from food, and a heart-healthy diet like the one we described above is a good way to ensure you get plenty of nutrients. However, you may want to talk to your doctor about whether taking certain supplements might help your blood pressure.
A few years ago, the federal government revised its high blood pressure guidelines after research showed that even slightly elevated blood pressure starts damaging the arteries and increasing the risk of a heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. The new guidelines specify the blood pressure numbers that indicate when a person is considered “hypertensive,” as well as a new category for “prehypertensive” people who are at risk for developing high blood pressure. The new category is a red flag to spur Americans to make the kinds of lifestyle changes that you are interested in. The idea is to prevent the upward creep of blood pressure that tends to happen with age.
In most cases where high blood pressure is diagnosed, the cause remains unclear. One review paper in the International Journal of Hypertension explains that this accounts for around 90% of all hypertension diagnosis and is usually referred to as essential hypertension. Secondary hypertension is diagnosed when a cause can be identified. Potential causes of secondary hypertension may include:
This is an interesting thread. I take 400 mg per day of Magnesium on the advice of my naturopath, have done so for a few years now, with some cycling on and off. I successfully manage my tendency towards hypertension through this one simple action (although constantly improving my health in other ways has its’ effects I’m sure!). I find when I cycle off it for too long I start to get muscle cramps and insomnia as well. I have observed a familial link between muscle pain and cramps in my maternal lineage, and believe there is some kind of genetic/epigenetic link to how our family utilises Mg in the body although I have no proof or idea of the mechanism of this. All I know is I’d prefer to supplement Mg moderately than take pharmaceuticals. I look forward to the day I can explain this with science (as I’m a scientist!) – would love any thoughts from Chris or the Kresser Institute experts on this 😊
If you happen to love any of the above alternative approaches, or are doing it as part of your healthy lifestyle, you can continue to do so. Remember they complement, and not necessarily replace traditional approaches and medications that your doctor suggests. You might see only a modest reduction in your blood pressure, but you know what...it is probably not going to hurt either!
Although medications can lower blood pressure, they may cause side effects such as leg cramps, dizziness, and insomnia. “The best habits to establish for reducing blood pressure are the same ones for a healthy life; follow an anti-inflammatory diet, do consistent low-level physical activity throughout the day, and the time plenty of time to reduce stress by learning how to smell the roses,” said Dr. Barry Sears, president of the Inflammation Research Foundation, to Medical Daily in an email. Lowering blood pressure can be attained without a prescription, not just by remaining alert on salty foods, but also with these five little-known everyday habits:
To calculate your target training heart rate, you need to know your resting heart rate. Resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute when it's at rest. The best time to find your resting heart rate is in the morning after a good night's sleep and before you get out of bed. Typically, an adult’s resting heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute. However, for people who are physically fit, it's generally lower. Also, resting heart rate usually rises with age.
One of the most important lifestyle changes to adapt when hypertension affects a patient is a more active daily routine. Exercise is reported to be an exceptionally useful method for controlling blood pressure levels and for reducing blood pressure in patients diagnosed with hypertension. Additionally, patients who regularly participate in physical activities are also at a lower risk of developing a complication or complications due to high blood pressure.
“Exercise, particularly cardio and aerobic exercise, has been known to be a potent dropper of blood pressure for a long time, and we know that fruits and vegetables rich in potassium and naturally occurring nitrates can actually lower blood pressure as effectively as many of the medications,” he said. “So that, to me, is no surprise. It’s nice that they put it all together in this study.”
Differences in gut flora from one person to another appears to have a large effect on whether or not you develop heart disease. If your gut flora is not healthy, your risk is much greater for heart disease, as well as many other chronic health problems. The best way to optimize your gut flora is by including some naturally fermented foods in your diet, such as sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, yogurt, kefir, and natto. An additional benefit of fermented foods is that some of them are excellent sources of vitamin K2, which is important for preventing arterial plaque buildup and heart disease.
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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:
Eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products (such as the DASH diet) while cutting back on foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol can significantly lower your blood pressure. One way to stick to a healthy diet is to write down everything you eat. Keeping a diary for even just a week can make people aware of their true eating habits.
2. Take the right nutrients. Talk with your chiropractor or other healthcare professional about the wide range of well-studied nutrients that, along with dietary and lifestyle modifications, can help normalize your blood pressure. One meta-analysis found magnesium supplements could lower blood pressure. Likewise, researchers find a small but significant decline in blood pressure for people with hypertension who use fish oil. (You can get all of fish oil’s benefits combined with anti-inflammatory flax oil and GLA in our Optimal Omega.)