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.
Two-thirds of Americans have either prehypertension or hypertension, both of which are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading cause of the death in the United States. However, prescription drugs may not be necessary to treat high blood pressure. Read on to learn what dietary changes, lifestyle strategies, and supplements can help lower blood pressure naturally.
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.
The right tunes can help bring your blood pressure down, according to Italian research. Researchers asked 29 adults who were already taking BP medication to listen to soothing classical, Celtic, or Indian music for 30 minutes daily while breathing slowly. When they followed up with the subjects six months later, their blood pressure had dropped by an average of 4 mmHg.
Sleep apnea, diabetes, and stress, each of which may be controlled (though this can be difficult), can also put a strain on the cardiovascular system and intensify blood pressure and related problems. Factors that put you in a high-risk category but that are difficult (or impossible) to control include family history, gender, and chronic kidney disease.
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Beyond changing your diet to minimize exposure to foods that increase blood pressure and emphasizing foods that reduce blood pressure, a number of nutritional supplements have been confidently demonstrated to reduce blood pressure. Several supplements, including vitamin D, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, and anthocyanins, correct inadequate intakes of these nutrients that commonly occur with modern lifestyles.
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.”
Also, if you sit for several hours a day, try to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting. Research has found that too much sedentary time can contribute to many health conditions. Aim for five to 10 minutes of low-intensity physical activity — such as getting up to get a drink of water or going on a short walk — each hour. Consider setting a reminder in your email calendar or on your smartphone.
It's time to heed your partner's complaints and get that snoring checked out. Loud, incessant snores are a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a disorder characterized by brief yet potentially life-threatening interruptions in breathing during sleep. And many sleep apnea sufferers also have high levels of aldosterone, a hormone that can boost blood pressure, according to University of Alabama researchers. In fact, it's estimated that sleep apnea affects half of people with high blood pressure.