Certain groups of people—the elderly, African Americans, and those with a family history of high blood pressure—are more likely than others to have blood pressure that's particularly salt-sensitive. But because there's no way to tell whether any one individual is at risk, everyone should consume less sodium, says Eva Obarzanek, PhD, a research nutritionist at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Although knowing how to quickly lower blood pressure in certain situations is valuable, it’s more beneficial to focus on how to lower your blood pressure in one day. By doing the things that contribute to a heart-healthy lifestyle day in and day out, you can better prevent and manage high blood pressure. Therefore, monitoring your diet and activity is essential to lowering resting blood pressure.
Even if you don’t keep a salt shaker on the table, you may have too much sodium in your diet. Processed foods -- especially canned soups, salad dressings, snack mixes, and fast food -- are a large contributor of sodium to your diet. Read food labels and choose low-sodium options when possible. Aim to consume less than 2,300 milligrams per day, and less than 1,500 milligrams if you’ve already been diagnosed with hypertension.
Beta blockers decrease the effect of adrenaline on the cardiovascular system, slow the heart rate, and reduce stress on the heart and the arteries. Side effects include worsening shortness of breath if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma; sexual dysfunction; fatigue; depression; and worsening of symptoms if you have peripheral artery disease. Beta-blocker examples include:
Stress contributes to a notable increase in your blood pressure. Stress is a part of life though, so you can learn how to manage it better. Ways to cope with stress include avoiding stressful situations, such as people who trigger anger or high-traffic routes when you’re driving. Avoid overscheduling yourself, and learn to say no to commitments that are voluntary.
4. Limit your salt usage. A sudden jump in blood pressure may be a sign of salt-sensitive hypertension. Overall, about half of Americans with high blood pressure are sodium sensitive; it's particularly common in African-Americans and those over age 65. Cutting the salt in your diet can result in anything from a small to a dramatic improvement in high blood pressure, depending on your level of salt sensitivity.
Providing at least 5 servings of vegetables and 4 servings of fruits daily, which help ensure that you eat plenty of foods that are full of stomach-filling volume yet are low in calories, enhancing weight-loss efforts. Losing excess weight is one of the most effective ways to lower blood pressure in the short term. Eating plenty of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables also means you’ll be eating excellent sources of potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Many studies have found that foods rich in these minerals help blunt some of the toxic effects of sodium.
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.
There are many popular medical myths about high blood pressure. For example, many physicians believe that high blood pressure is an “inevitable consequence of aging;” that the “only viable treatment option for high blood pressure patients is medication”; that high blood pressure patients must take their medications “for the rest of their lives”; and, worst of all, that high blood pressure medications are “safe and effective.”
A study1 published earlier this year discovered that those who consumed 74 grams or more per day of fructose (the equivalent of about 2.5 sugary drinks) had a 77 percent greater risk of having blood pressure levels of 160/100 mmHg. (For comparison, a normal blood pressure reading is below 120/80 mmHg.) Consuming 74 grams or more of fructose daily also increased the risk of a 135/85 blood pressure reading by 26 percent, and 140/90 by 30 percent.
Being diagnosed with high blood pressure can be scary, especially if your doctor is recommending medication to keep your hypertension under control. Medication can be quite expensive. Not to mention possible side effects such as dizziness, nausea or vomiting, and erection problems. However, it is not your only option in the fight against high blood pressure.
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.
Having a bad day can impair our judgment and lead to most of us making not-so-wise lifestyle choices like binge eating, smoking, or drinking. These unhealthy habits done in excess can negatively affect our health, especially our blood pressure. As one in four Americans continue to suffer from the epidemic of high blood pressure, it is imperative for us to effectively avoid and reduce this highly preventable disease associated with heart attack and stroke, aneurysms, cognitive decline, and kidney failure. Fortunately, there are ways to bring down blood pressure without the use of medication.
Keep in mind that sea salt and kosher salt contain the same amount of sodium as table salt. Salt substitutes contain potassium chloride, which is not safe for some people, so you may want to avoid it. Instead, look into sodium-free alternatives to replace salt in your diet, such as lemon juice, flavored vinegar, fresh herbs, and salt-free herb and spice blends.
The heartening news is that most people can effectively control their blood pressure without the need for medications by following a healthy lifestyle like the Pritikin Program. “Those who still need medications usually require a lower dose and/or fewer drugs, thereby reducing their risk of suffering adverse side effects from the medications,” states Dr. Fruge.
1. Isometric handgrip exercises. An American Heart Association study found that squeezing a spring-loaded handgrip for two minutes, over a period of 12 to 15 minutes three times a week, can help lower blood pressure. Why? The study found that blood flow returns to your hands after the isometric exercise, improving blood vessel function. Another study reported in the journal Hypertension found this exercise produced a 10% drop in both systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) readings when practiced six times a day, five days a week for four weeks.