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.
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.
For example, eating a healthy diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats can limit dense low-density lipoprotein (LDL) deposits along the artery that contribute to high blood pressure. Limiting intake of processed foods can lower sodium intake and total cholesterol. This, in addition to exercise, can also help lead to weight loss. Research indicates that losing as little as nine pounds can have substantial impacts on blood pressure.
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
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.
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.
Conventional allopathic medicines and lifestyle modifications still remain the backbone of hypertension management. What about alternative treatments, though? Well,in 2013, the American Heart Association came out with an official statement addressing this issue, published in the journal Hypertension. The statement runs about 59 pages, but I will try to summarize this statement's conclusion's addressing the efficacy of approaches like acupuncture, yoga, meditation, etc in treating high blood pressure. Please note that these conclusions apply only to treatment of high blood pressure, and not to other health/psychological benefits that may be derived from doing these activities.
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.
7. Cut down on sodium intake: Processed and packaged food needs to go out of your kitchen, if you want healthy levels of blood pressure. This is because processed food is loaded with added preservatives to increase their shelf life. Also, prepare your food with lesser salt as high intake of salt is linked to risks of high blood pressure and stroke.
In most cases where high blood pressure is diagnosed, the cause remains unclear. One review paper in the International Journal of Hypertension explains that this accounts for around 90% of all hypertension diagnosis and is usually referred to as essential hypertension. Secondary hypertension is diagnosed when a cause can be identified. Potential causes of secondary hypertension may include:
Fish are a great source of lean protein. Fatty fish like mackerel and salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and lower triglycerides. In addition to these fish sources, trout contains vitamin D. Foods rarely contain vitamin D, and this hormone-like vitamin has properties that can lower blood pressure.
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.