5. Drink alcohol moderately, if at all. Although moderate alcohol consumption does not reduce the risk of high blood pressure, it is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines “moderate” consumption as an average of no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Drinking more than a moderate amount increases the risk of high blood pressure.
Bananas are one great source of potassium, but there are other tasty ways to get your fill. Potatoes actually pack more potassium than the yellow fruit (and you might be surprised to learn there are plenty of other health benefits of potatoes, too). Sweet potatoes, tomatoes, orange juice, kidney beans, peas, cantaloupe, honeydew, and dried fruits like prunes or raisins are other good sources. In all, you should aim to get 2,000 to 4,000 mg of potassium a day, Van Horn recommends.
Perhaps you’ve never given much thought to your blood pressure, especially if it’s been spot on for most of your life. But as you get older and deal with more stressful aspects of in life, it can affect your blood pressure. Maybe not quite high enough to require medication, but it may be something to keep an eye on it. And this can affect even those who eat well, exercise most days, and do all the right things to stay healthy.
In one 2009 study, every hour less of average sleep duration per night was associated with a 37% increase in the odds of developing hypertension over five years. In another report from 2015, people with sleep apnea—a dangerous condition that can cause hypertension in itself—saw reductions in their blood pressure when they were treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines or mandibular advancement devices (MADs).
The causes are most often some combination of clogged “pipes” and excessive salt in the diet. Lifestyle changes, such as appropriate diet and exercise, are among the most effective treatment strategies for high blood pressure. Relaxation, meditation, and otherwise “taking it easy” are not effective solutions, as valuable as such strategies may be for your psychological well-being.
Studying men with hypertension who came to Pritikin, scientists at UCLA found that within three weeks, the men had significantly healthier levels of blood pressure. In fact, those who arrived at Pritikin taking hypertension drugs left Pritikin two to three weeks later no longer needing their medications, or with their dosages significantly reduced.1
Other exercise options that don’t require a gym membership include body weight exercises, like pushups, squats, and jumping jacks. These exercises can be done at home or outside. For people who like going to the gym or running, these can be good ways to build community, notes Parker. Apps like Fitbit and MapMyRun can be helpful if you like keeping track of your steps, calories burned, weight, or number of miles run.
4. Find an exercise that works for you (and do it). Moving more can help reverse high blood pressure. One meta-analysis of 65 studies found regular exercise provides both an acute and longer-term reduction in blood pressure. Whether you’re an exercise novice or a conditioned athlete, these four strategies can help you create an effective workout plan to optimize health.
An aside: We don't much like taking medications, either. But if you end up needing blood pressure medicine to achieve a healthy blood pressure, don't be discouraged. The medicines are effective and safe, and they present only mild side effects, if any. Studies comparing older and newer blood pressure medicines found that one of the oldest and cheapest classes of drugs (the thiazide diuretics, such as hydrochlorothiazide and chlorthalidone) was as good as, or better than, the newer, more expensive ones.
Reduce sodium in your diet. One easy way to reduce your sodium intake is to limit or avoid processed foods, such lunch meats, hot dogs, bacon, frozen dinners, canned vegetables with added salt, and that sort of thing. Most packaged convenience foods, like macaroni and cheese, soups, side dishes, pizzas, and other multi-ingredient foods have a lot of added sodium. Start reading labels and pay attention to the sodium content. You should aim for 1500mg or less every day.
Cat’s claw is an herbal medicine used in traditional Chinese practice to treat hypertension as well as neurological health problems. Studies of cat’s claw as a treatment for hypertension in rodents indicate that it may be helpful in reducing blood pressure by acting on calcium channels in your cells. You can get cat’s claw in supplement form from many health food stores.
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.
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.
In addition to these methods being effective, other lifestyle changes and diet adjustments may also be useful in lower blood pressure. One study explains that losing weight can have a significant positive impact on patients that have been diagnosed with hypertension. Even small reductions in bodyweight amongst those individuals who are both obese and hypertensive can yield life-saving benefits. Dietary changes can also help. In particular, the patient should aim to lower their daily intake of sodium, which causes an elevation in blood pressure. The patient should also focus on obtaining more calcium, potassium and other minerals that are useful in balancing blood pressure levels. Fiber, fruits and a lot of vegetables should also be an essential part of the patient’s daily diet.
Hypertension affects 33 percent of American adults, yet only 1 percent of hunter–gatherer populations following a traditional diet develop high blood pressure (5). The Standard American Diet, full of added sugars, refined grains, and industrial seed oils, sets the stage for hypertension to develop. The following nutrients and food guidelines, as part of a Paleo diet, can help lower blood pressure.
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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.
A lack of vitamin D is common in developed countries and can cause a range of health problems. But this simple and inexpensive supplement may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Taking around 4000IU of a high-quality D3 supplement daily can also support bone health, lower blood pressure, boost your mood and reduce fatigue – and these are just a few of its many health benefits.
Dr. Goldberg teaches these patients to monitor their blood pressure at home in the mornings and evenings. This gives her a more complete picture before prescribing any medications. But there’s a hidden benefit, as well: Research suggests that keeping track of their own blood pressure may be incentive for patients to make healthy choices like losing weight and eating healthier.
Don’t assume that your doctor is aware of these facts. If you are diagnosed with mild, high blood pressure, you likely will be prescribed medication, instructed that it is helpful, and told that you must take it for the rest of your life. But before accepting this potentially dangerous treatment, it may be to your advantage to seek answers to the following questions: “What caused my high blood pressure?” and “Can I remove those causes and reverse this condition?”
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.