One drink counts as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits. "High levels of alcohol are clearly detrimental," says Obarzanek. "But moderate alcohol is protective of the heart. If you are going to drink, drink moderately." (And if you're trying to keep your weight in check, stick to these low-calorie alcoholic drinks recommended by registered dietitians.)
Blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day, so measuring it in the morning might yield a different number than, say, the afternoon. Conditions like stress and lack of sleep can also fluctuate blood pressure. Visiting your doctor might feel nerve-wracking, which can elevate your blood pressure and create a condition called white coat hypertension.
Flavanols an anti-inflammatory and heart-protective antioxidant found in raw cacao may protect against cardiovascular disease, reduce the risk of stroke, and help improve blood circulation. Thus lowering your blood pressure. Cacao contains over 700 compounds and the complex antioxidants found in it known as polyphenols help reduce ‘bad cholesterol’ and prevent hardening of the arteries.
Drugs.com explains diazoxide is used in emergency situations when severe high blood pressure occurs in adults and children. This medication lowers diastolic pressure in children. The drug increases cardiac output when blood pressure lowers, thereby making the heart work less. Hyperglycemia may occur as a side effect, but that condition usually occurs in patients with diabetes. Repeated injections of diazoxide may result in congestive heart failure since the medication causes sodium retention.
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.
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.
Cinnamon is another tasty seasoning that requires little effort to include in your daily diet, and it may bring your blood pressure numbers down. One study done in rodents suggested that cinnamon extract lowered both sudden-onset and prolonged high blood pressure. However, the extract was given intravenously. It’s unclear if cinnamon consumed orally is also effective.
4. Living in quiet. A study at Lund University in Sweden found that daily exposure to noise that is above 64 decibels—the same amount of noise made when brushing your teeth—raises your risk of high blood pressure 90%. If you can’t get away from noise (for example, if you live near a busy highway), try noise-canceling headphones or earplugs, when feasible.
Those who received a placebo drink improved their reading by only 1 point. The phytochemicals in hibiscus are probably responsible for the large reduction in high blood pressure, say the study authors. Many herbal teas contain hibiscus; look for blends that list it near the top of the chart of ingredients for low blood pressure—this often indicates a higher concentration per serving.
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.
For example, eating a healthy diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats can limit dense low-density lipoprotein (LDL) deposits along the artery that contribute to high blood pressure. Limiting intake of processed foods can lower sodium intake and total cholesterol. This, in addition to exercise, can also help lead to weight loss. Research indicates that losing as little as nine pounds can have substantial impacts on blood pressure.
There are other reasons you may want to spend more time in the great outdoors, though. A 2014 study found that when the skin is exposed to sunlight, a chemical reaction causes blood vessels to widen and blood pressure to drop. And in a 2010 study, people who spent time in nature—walking in the forest as opposed to in an urban environment—saw greater reductions in their blood pressure, pulse rate, and stress hormones.
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.)
Americans eat far too much dietary sodium, up to three times the recommended total amount, which is 1,500 milligrams (mg) daily for individuals with high blood pressure, says Dr. Fisher. It doesn't take much sodium to reach that 1,500-mg daily cap — just 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt. There's half of that amount of sodium in one Egg McMuffin breakfast sandwich. Weed out high-sodium foods by reading labels carefully. "It is very difficult to lower dietary sodium without reading labels, unless you prepare all of your own food," says Dr. Fisher. Beware in particular of what the American Heart Association has dubbed the "salty six," common foods where high amounts of sodium may be lurking:
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.
While you shouldn't shrug off the change, there's also no need to panic. "Obviously, nothing happened overnight inside a woman's body or to her health with the release of the guidelines," says Dr. Naomi Fisher, director of hypertension service and hypertension innovation at the Brigham and Women's Hospital Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Hypertension, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
They say high BP (hypertension) is a "silent disease", but it does whisper softly. I felt it. It was an uncomfortable feeling, a strong sense of "something isn't right". For some it may be a slight headachy feeling, or a tightness in the head, or dizziness. If you stop and think, you can feel it if ever your BP shoots way too high. If ever it does, you'll then be searching for answers as to how to lower blood pressure quickly, like I was.
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!
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.
Also, be sure that the quality chocolate has large quantities (a minimum of 70%) of cocoa - the active ingredient that lowers the blood pressure. Cocoa has antioxidant-rich compounds called flavanoids, which help dilate blood vessels and assist in glucose metabolism. Surprisingly, dark chocolate contains more of these antioxidant compounds than even the famed blueberry.
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