“Weight is one of the most important determiners of blood pressure,” says John Bisognano, MD, director of the Hypertension Clinic at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York. “Once someone’s BMI is over 25 to 28, taking off a few pounds will make a big difference in treating high blood pressure.” (A body mass index of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, while 30 and higher is obese.)
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).
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.
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Alternative therapies are increasingly receiving more attention for treatment of everything from heart disease to chronic kidney disease (CKD) and now high blood pressure (or hypertension). The overarching principle to always keep in mind, though, is that while it might be "cool and fashionable" to treat your maladies with alternative therapies, not all such treatments are backed by hard science. Some interventions work, some don't. And yes, they could have harmful side effects as well. The best and brightest of us have fallen gullible victims to mumbo-jumbo alternative therapies for various illnesses; Steve Jobs tryst with pancreatic cancer being a case in point. Long story short, approach every treatment (including conventional medicine) as a level-headed, scientific skeptic.
But not all high blood pressure is safe, and the longer it stays at a high rate, the more health risks you assume. Risks include acute responses like sweating, fainting or shortness of breath, and more severe issues like heart disease and heart attack can arise. So when stress hits, knowing how to lower blood pressure quickly can be a great health benefit.
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.
Celery seed is an herb used to flavor soups, stews, casseroles, and other savory dishes. Celery has long been used to treat hypertension in China, and studies in rodents have shown that it may be effective. You can use the seeds, or you can juice the whole plant. Celery may also be a diuretic, which may help explain its effect on blood pressure. Researchers believe that a variety of substances in celery may play a role in lowering blood pressure. However, human studies are needed.
Exercise. Doctors recommend at least 150 minutes per week of exercise to help reduce blood pressure. Brisk walking is excellent for reducing blood pressure and improving overall cardiovascular health, but other exercises can work too. Try jogging, riding a bike, swimming, dancing, or interval training to get your aerobic exercise. Strength training is also important to your heart health and can help reduce blood pressure.
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.
Start by eating nuts. Pistachio nuts, singled out among other nuts, seem to have the strongest effect on reducing blood pressure in adults. This is according to a recent review and scientific analysis of 21 clinical trials, all carried out between 1958 and 2013. The review appears online in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a publication of the American Society for Nutrition.
Ask your doctor if low-fat or nonfat milk is better than whole milk for you. Whole milk can lower blood pressure better than low-fat or nonfat milk, but there may also be risks. Whole milk contains Palmitic acid, which, according to some studies, can block internal signals responsible for relaxing blood vessels. As a result, your blood vessels stay constricted and your blood pressure remains high.
Vitamin K2. Adequate vitamin K2 helps keep calcium from residing in blood vessels, thereby preventing hypertension and calcification (19). Vitamins K1 and K2 have different forms and functions. Vitamin K1 is abundant in leafy greens and many other foods, while vitamin K2 sources are more uncommon: natto (fermented soy), some cheeses, butter from grass-fed cows, goose liver, and egg yolks.
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:
Olive leaf extract. In one 2008 study, supplementing with 1,000 mg of olive leaf extract daily for eight weeks caused a significant dip in both blood pressure and LDL ("bad cholesterol") in people with borderline hypertension. If you want to incorporate olive leaf extract as a natural adjunct to a nutritionally sound diet, you should look for fresh leaf liquid extracts for maximum synergistic potency. You can also prepare your own olive leaf tea by placing a large teaspoon of dried olive leaves in a tea ball or herb sack. Place it in about two quarts of boiling water and let it steep for three to 10 minutes. The tea should be a medium amber color when done.
Smoking is a habit that can worsen nearly any health condition. With each cigarette smoked, blood pressure increases temporarily. Over the long-term, smoking can compound the health problems associated with high blood pressure by damaging blood vessels and arteries and causing inflammation throughout the body. While quitting may not be easy, programs such as Commit to Quit can help with resources such as assistance from medical professionals, prescription medications, and group support.
Monitor your blood pressure and talk with your doctor. A medical professional can check your blood pressure by using a sphygmomanometer and a stethoscope, or you can check it yourself using an automatic blood pressure monitoring device. If you have concerns about your blood pressure, talk to your doctor to determine what treatment options may work best for you. Blood pressure is usually divided into categories, which include: