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.
Eighty million U.S. adults, or one in three, have hypertension (1). Another one in three have prehypertension, defined as blood pressure in the range of 120–139/80–89 mmHg. In addition to costing $48.6 billion annually, hypertension is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, chronic renal failure, and stroke (1). Even prehypertension increases the risk of death from CVD (2). Because of its severity, hypertension requires immediate treatment, but prescription drugs may not be the answer.
3. Implement strategies to lower inflammation. Several cross-sectional and longitudinal studies connect high blood pressure with chronic inflammation, a driving force for nearly every disease on the planet. Lowering inflammation starts with what you put on your fork. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods like wild-caught seafood (rich in omega-3 fatty acids), freshly ground flax and chia seeds, spices like turmeric, and plenty of colorful plant foods. Good sleep, stress management, exercise, and the right nutrients can also help lower inflammation.
Initially, these medications were only recommended for people whose blood pressure exceeded 160/100 mmHg, but they are now routinely prescribed when blood pressure approaches 140/90 mmHg, even in the absence of any previous cardiovascular event. Treating mild hypertension with drugs has not been shown to be effective, yet it is common practice (3, 4).
The reasons for this astonishing success are not yet entirely understood. Certainly, two of the major causes of high blood pressure are being addressed: excessive dietary salt is completely eliminated, and it is likely that some patients experience some reversal of the atherosclerosis process. However, Dr. Campbell has suggested that additional mechanisms may be partly responsible for fasting’s remarkable effects, such as the rapid reduction of a phenomenon known as “insulin resistance.”
Reduce processed sugar and refined carbohydrates. Many studies have shown a link between high blood pressure and processed sugar. Even moderate amounts of sugar can raise blood pressure. For example, during the Framingham Women’s Health Study, women who drank as little as one soda per day had higher blood pressure than women who drank less. It’s not just sweet sugar that raises blood pressure. Refined carbohydrates, like white bread and pasta, covert to sugar quickly when they’re eaten, and they may also cause blood pressure to rise. There is evidence that reducing refined sugar intake can lower blood pressure and improve heart health.
Exercise is the soulmate to eating right. You’re more likely to lose weight if you exercise and follow a healthy diet. Official recommendations call for at least half an hour of exercise most days of the week. The effects can be dramatic: Blood pressure drops of 4 to 9 points. Remember that exercise isn’t just going to the gym. It can be gardening, washing your car, or housework. But things that get your heart rate up -- aerobic activities -- like walking, dancing, jogging, riding your bike, and swimming are best for your heart.
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.
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.
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?”
It's especially important to place the blood pressure cuff in the correct location and keep your arm in the recommended position. If your initial blood pressure reading is high, re-read the instructions, make any necessary adjustments, and then take your blood pressure again. Make sure enough time has past in between readings that you're not repeatedly squeezing the same arm in a short amount of time.
Most types of exercise: aerobic, weight training, and isometric hand-grip exercises helped patients lower blood pressure, with people doing isometric hand-grip exercises showing the most blood pressure reduction (about 10 percent). This was greater than the benefit obtained from a mild aerobic exercise like walking. However, the researchers speculated that this could be related to the lack of intensity or shorter duration of walking done by the subjects. Some older studies have indicated that intense walking over 35 minutes done regularly confers the same cardiovascular benefits. Comparing various alternative approaches, exercise has some of the strongest evidence out there for lowering high blood pressure.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The above information is intended to increase awareness of health information and does not suggest treatment or diagnosis. This information is not a substitute for individual medical attention and should not be construed to indicate that use of the drug is safe, appropriate, or effective for you. See your health care professional for medical advice and treatment.
First, keep in mind that drugs have limited success. Most studies on diuretics and other blood pressure-lowering drugs suggest they lower the risk of cardiovascular events among those with blood pressure between 140/90 and 159/99 by 15 to 20%.3 The problem is, with this range of blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular-related deaths has increased by 300 to 400% compared to people with normal blood pressure.