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.
Exposure to appropriate amounts of sunlight is a basic health requirement that extends far beyond blood pressure normalization. Vitamin D helps systems and organs throughout your body to function properly. Ideally, you'll want to get your vitamin D through safe exposure to sunshine or a safe tanning bed, but vitamin D3 supplements can also be used. Please do NOT let your doctor give you a "prescription" vitamin D. That is vitamin D2, which is synthetic, and not nearly as beneficial as the real vitamin D, which is D3 (cholecalciferol).
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:
If you are insulin resistant, you'll definitely want to include weight training in your exercise program. When you work individual muscle groups, you increase blood flow to those muscles. Good blood flow will increase your insulin sensitivity. Depending on your physical condition when you embark on your exercise program, you may need to consult with a health care professional for help increasing to the intensity required to lower your insulin level. Exercise in combination with the supplement L-arginine has been shown to correct the abnormal functioning of blood vessels seen in people with chronic heart failure. However, I would view this more as a drug approach and not necessarily a supplement you would consider using for optimizing health in general. L-arginine probably works through its interaction with nitric oxide. I would consider it an adjunct, not a replacement, for coenzymeQ10, which is a well-proven therapy for heart failure.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your long-term health depends on keeping the condition under control. The changes above can all help reduce blood pressure levels to a healthy range and potentially allow you to avoid the need for medication. Still, this is a determination that can only be made by your physician. Speak with your doctor about your potential treatment options and which may be best for your particular situation.
Eat a heart-healthy diet. Eating a well-balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds that is also low in sodium, saturated fat, added sugar, and cholesterol is important for your heart. There is a diet specifically geared toward lowering blood pressure. It’s called the DASH diet, which stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension. Talk to your doctor or make an appointment with a dietitian if you need help making changes to your diet.
Sunny days not only boost our mood, but they can help keep our blood pressure in check. A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found exposure to sunlight can alter the levels of nitric oxide in the skin and blood, therefore reducing the blood pressure. When exposed to sunlight, small amounts of nitric oxide are transported from the skin to the circulation lowering blood vessel tone. This decreases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Another study by UCLA researchers of 1,117 men and women with high blood pressure reported that within three weeks of arriving at Pritikin, systolic blood pressure fell on average 9%. Diastolic pressure also fell 9%. Of those taking blood pressure drugs, 55% returned home medication-free. Many of the remaining 45% left Pritikin with their dosages substantially reduced.2
Exercise. Some patients will cringe at the suggestion of exercise, because they envision a chronic cardio scenario like a mouse on a running wheel. Spread the good news: exercise of all kinds—endurance, dynamic resistance, HIIT, isometric resistance—has the potential to reduce blood pressure (38). Whatever exercise your patients will actually do on a regular basis is the best recipe for success. In patients with extreme hypertension, be cautious with exercises that may further increase blood pressure to an unsafe zone (39).
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.