We asked clinicians from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s CardioVascular Institute how they advise their patients to keep blood pressure under control. While medication is the right solution for some people, the good news is that lifestyle changes can help reduce — and in some cases replace — the amount of medication needed. It’s a good place to start.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, refers to the pressure of blood against your artery walls. Over time, high blood pressure can cause blood vessel damage that leads to heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and other problems. Hypertension is sometimes called the silent killer because it produces no symptoms and can go unnoticed — and untreated — for years.
Conventional allopathic medicines and lifestyle modifications still remain the backbone of hypertension management. What about alternative treatments, though? Well,in 2013, the American Heart Association came out with an official statement addressing this issue, published in the journal Hypertension. The statement runs about 59 pages, but I will try to summarize this statement's conclusion's addressing the efficacy of approaches like acupuncture, yoga, meditation, etc in treating high blood pressure. Please note that these conclusions apply only to treatment of high blood pressure, and not to other health/psychological benefits that may be derived from doing these activities.
Omega 6:3 ratio is important. A lot of us get way too much omega-6 in our diets, which is what’s caused the omega-3 craze. Refined vegetable oil is one of the main culprits, and found in almost all processed foods, and even some orange juices. Because we have way too much omega-6 in our systems, we need to compensate by taking some form of omega-3 oil. Decreasing your intake of processed foods will have a similar effect.
Sleep. Short and poor-quality sleep are both associated with raised blood pressure (40). On the other side of the spectrum, excessively long sleep may also be harmful. One study found increased blood pressure in those who got fewer than five hours of sleep per night and in those who averaged more than nine hours of sleep per night, when compared with people who slept around seven hours (41). I suspect that it’s not the long sleep itself that is the problem, but that some underlying condition is both increasing sleep requirement and raising blood pressure.
Cold-water fish. Increasing serum measurements of DHA/EPA, markers of fish intake, are related to lower blood pressure (12, 13, 14). However, steer clear of most fish oil supplements and instead have patients obtain beneficial nutrients from whole foods whenever possible. A recent analysis showed that the three top-selling fish oils in the United States contained oxidized lipids that may be causing more harm than good (15). Beyond DHA and EPA, fish also have selenium, zinc, iron, and a highly absorbable protein that also may reduce blood pressure (16). Aim for cold-water fatty fish three times a week.
Low levels of vitamin D—which the body gets from fortified foods, supplements, or the skin’s exposure to sunlight—have been linked to high blood pressure. But most research has found that taking supplements doesn't seem to help. Dr. Bisognano says the jury’s still out on how the two are linked. “I have found that people with extremely low vitamin D levels can have high blood pressure that’s more difficult to treat,” he says, “but I can’t be sure whether that’s the driving issue.”
You can lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number) by switching to the DASH diet. The DASH diet is based on 2,000 calories a day. It's rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. It's also low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat. According to studies, adopting a DASH diet can reduce systolic blood pressure by eight to 14 points. The goal is to keep you blood pressure goal is less than 120/80.
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!
Now I work with patients with high blood pressure every single day in my clinic. I’m board-certified chiropractic physician and people come into my office all the time with high blood pressure. And over the years I learned that traditional lifestyle changes do not have the answers for these patients. On top of that many hate the idea of taking drugs to manage their high blood pressure.
Lowering high blood pressure is as easy as one, two, tea: Adults with mildly high blood pressure who sipped three cups of hibiscus tea daily lowered their systolic BP by seven points in six weeks, found Tufts University researchers. The phytochemicals in hibiscus are probably responsible for the large reduction in high blood pressure, the study authors say.
How low should you go? Aim to keep your sodium intake below 1,500 mg for healthy blood pressure, recommends the American Heart Association. That’s about half of what most Americans consume per day. Going easy on the saltshaker can help, but you’ll make a bigger impact by watching the sodium count in packaged or processed foods, Obarzanek says. (Pay extra attention to bread and rolls, pizza, soup, cold cuts, poultry, and sandwiches, which tend to pack the most salt.) Then try these other simple ways to slash your salt intake.
With magnesium, my understanding is that the actual rate of absorption varies enormously between types. Further, any oral form significantly reduces absorption to about 20%. So 1000 mg of a good chelated form is internalised as 200 mg. I have seen an Epsom salts bath three times weekly proposed as a cheaper and better alternative due to it being absorbed through the skin. Another alternative is liquid magnesium but in that case dosage is not controlled.
7. Visit your chiropractor. A special chiropractic adjustment could significantly lower high blood pressure, a placebo-controlled study suggests. “This procedure has the effect of not one, but two blood–pressure medications given in combination,” study leader George Bakris, MD, told WebMD. Your chiropractor can create an effective protocol that helps normalize blood pressure without medication or other invasive procedures.
It goes without saying that when you don’t sleep well, you don’t feel well, and your body just doesn’t work well. In fact, research has shown for decades that a strong link between insomnia and hypertension exists. Reevaluating your daytime decisions or nighttime routines leading up to bedtime can help you find what works best for you in getting a good night’s rest.
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.
When added to a healthy diet, almonds can help influence lower blood pressure levels. In fact, almonds are included in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension — DASH — Diet. In the diet, almonds are included in the “nuts, seeds and legumes” group. The diet recommends eating four to five servings of this food group per week. With regard to almonds, one serving of almonds is just one-third cup. The healthy monounsaturated fat in almonds contributes to lower blood cholesterol levels and reduced arterial inflammation, which ultimately helps lower the pressure inside the arteries.
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.