Dairy or soy—it’s your choice. Replacing some of the refined carbohydrates in your diet with foods high in soy or milk protein (like tofu or low-fat dairy) can bring down systolic blood pressure if you have hypertension or prehypertension, findings suggest. "Some patients get inflammation from refined carbohydrates, which will increase blood pressure," says Matthew J. Budoff, MD, FACC, Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine and Director of Cardiac CT at the Division of Cardiology at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
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.
A heart rate watch can let you quickly assess your pulse. Here's how to use one. Put the band that comes with it on your chest underneath your shirt. By looking at the watch during exercise, you can see your actual heart rate. This is a good alternative to taking your pulse manually. Ask your doctor to recommend the best target heart rate zone (or training zone) for you.
You can lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number) by switching to the DASH diet. The DASH diet is based on 2,000 calories a day. It's rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. It's also low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat. According to studies, adopting a DASH diet can reduce systolic blood pressure by eight to 14 points. The goal is to keep you blood pressure goal is less than 120/80.
There are more worrisome facts about medications, notes Dr. Fruge. Drug treatment frequently has annoying and sometimes dangerous side effects, and never cures the disease. All too often, blood pressure problems grow progressively worse despite the use of medications. That’s deeply troubling because hypertension is a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, and premature death.
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.
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.
Cinnamon is another tasty seasoning that requires little effort to include in your daily diet, and it may bring your blood pressure numbers down. One study done in rodents suggested that cinnamon extract lowered both sudden-onset and prolonged high blood pressure. However, the extract was given intravenously. It’s unclear if cinnamon consumed orally is also effective.
Exposure to appropriate amounts of sunlight is a basic health requirement that extends far beyond blood pressure normalization. Vitamin D helps systems and organs throughout your body to function properly. Ideally, you'll want to get your vitamin D through safe exposure to sunshine or a safe tanning bed, but vitamin D3 supplements can also be used. Please do NOT let your doctor give you a "prescription" vitamin D. That is vitamin D2, which is synthetic, and not nearly as beneficial as the real vitamin D, which is D3 (cholecalciferol).
Blood pressure is written as two numbers, such as 112/78 mm Hg. The top, systolic, number is the pressure when the heart beats. The bottom, diastolic, number is the pressure when the heart rests between beats. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg. If you’re an adult and your systolic pressure is 120 to 139, or your diastolic pressure is 80 to 89 (or both), you have pre-hypertension. High blood pressure is a pressure of 140 systolic or higher and/or 90 diastolic or higher that stays high over time.