Research on the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet shows that eating at least 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day can reduce blood pressure about as much as medication. Fruits and vegetables are high in potassium, which helps to balance sodium in your cells to reduce pressure in your blood vessel and has shown to lower risk for stroke. Try to incorporate at least one piece or serving of a fruit or vegetable (or both) into each snack, and include about ½ plate of fruits and vegetables into all your meals.
Listening to your favorite song not only will improve your feeling of well-being but also lower your blood pressure. A study published in the journal Netherland Heart Journal found musicians had lower blood pressure than non-musicians because their somatosensory nerve activity benefited their autonomic nervous system. If you’re not a musician, listening to music alone, especially classical, will do just as good.
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.
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.
Consuming garlic is one of the fastest ways to reduce your blood pressure. According to Gloria Benavides, Ph.D., and David Kraus, Ph.D., of Alabama-based UAB Health System, eating garlic not only lowers your blood pressure but also can protect you against cardiovascular disease. They state that the compounds from garlic interact with your red blood cells, which allow your blood vessels to relax and your pressure to naturally lower. In a study published in the July-August 1993 issue of the journal "Pharmacotherapy," F. McMahon and colleagues proved that garlic reduces blood pressure. In this study, participants who had severe hypertension were given a garlic solution of 2,400mg of garlic containing 1.3 percent allicin, an organosulfur compound found in garlic that has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. In less than five hours, the participants' sitting blood pressure fell 7/16 mm Hg and within five to 14 hours, all their diastolic pressures dropped significantly.
According to the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, the goal of blood pressure treatment is to attain a blood pressure reading that's less than 130/80 mmHg systolic and less than 80mmHg diastolic. In general, if you have hypertension, it is likely that you will need to be treated for the duration of your life to maintain this target blood pressure.
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.
Exercise. Some patients will cringe at the suggestion of exercise, because they envision a chronic cardio scenario like a mouse on a running wheel. Spread the good news: exercise of all kinds—endurance, dynamic resistance, HIIT, isometric resistance—has the potential to reduce blood pressure (38). Whatever exercise your patients will actually do on a regular basis is the best recipe for success. In patients with extreme hypertension, be cautious with exercises that may further increase blood pressure to an unsafe zone (39).
Regular visits with your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is well-controlled, check with your doctor about how often you need to check it. Your doctor may suggest checking it daily or less often. If you're making any changes in your medications or other treatments, your doctor may recommend you check your blood pressure starting two weeks after treatment changes and a week before your next appointment.
Stress can cause blood pressure to rise, both short- and long-term. So finding something that helps you relax can be an important part of preventing or reducing hypertension. What that something is, exactly, is up to you—but research suggests that yoga, meditation, spending time with pets, laughing, and even having sex (!) may be good choices. “Just like with exercise, you have to choose something that you enjoy and that you can do consistently as part of your daily lifestyle,” says Dr. Bisognano.
Omega-3 fats are typically found in flaxseed oil, walnut oil and fish, with fish being by far the best source. Unfortunately, most fresh fish today contains dangerously high levels of mercury. Your best bet is to find a safe source of fish, or if this proves too difficult, supplement with a high quality krill oil, which has been found to be 48 times more potent than fish oil.
A long-term study concluded in 2014 found that people who ate more protein had a lower risk of high blood pressure. For those who ate an average of 100 grams of protein per day, there was a 40 percent lower risk of having high blood pressure than those on a low-protein diet (33). Those who also added regular fiber into their diet saw up to a 60 percent reduction of risk.
2. Take the right nutrients. Talk with your chiropractor or other healthcare professional about the wide range of well-studied nutrients that, along with dietary and lifestyle modifications, can help normalize your blood pressure. One meta-analysis found magnesium supplements could lower blood pressure. Likewise, researchers find a small but significant decline in blood pressure for people with hypertension who use fish oil. (You can get all of fish oil’s benefits combined with anti-inflammatory flax oil and GLA in our Optimal Omega.)