Smoking is a habit that can worsen nearly any health condition. With each cigarette smoked, blood pressure increases temporarily. Over the long-term, smoking can compound the health problems associated with high blood pressure by damaging blood vessels and arteries and causing inflammation throughout the body. While quitting may not be easy, programs such as Commit to Quit can help with resources such as assistance from medical professionals, prescription medications, and group support.
One notable recommendation within the new guidelines is the focus on lifestyle changes first, and medication only if necessary. Like all meds, blood pressure medications come with their side effects, so it’s always worth it to work on diet, exercise and stress management first. Even if an individual receives only partial benefits from lifestyle changes, it may still mean reduced medication usage, or one with fewer side effects if necessary. Here are a few lifestyle changes that you start today to reduce your blood pressure naturally.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 75 million Americans have high blood pressure. Many risk factors for high blood pressure are out of your control, such as age, family history, gender, and race. But there are also factors you can control, such as exercise and diet. A diet that can help control blood pressure is rich in potassium, magnesium, and fiber and lower in sodium.
3. Quit soda. One 12-ounce can of soda contains about 40 grams of fructose, one of the leading high blood pressure risk factors in North America. Consuming 74 or more grams of fructose per day increases your risk of high blood pressure by 77 percent. For people accustomed to drinking a can or two of soda daily, cutting the pop can have a dramatic effect on blood pressure, even eliminating the problem altogether.
Going hand-in-hand with the first two methods, body weight is a major factor associated with blood pressure. In general, weight loss in those who are considered overweight or obese makes a significant, positive impact, and even a few pounds lost can help. Likewise, waist size has also been linked with blood pressure. Ideally, a man’s waist circumference should be less than 40 inches, and a woman’s should be less than 35 in order to minimize risk.
Eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products (such as the DASH diet) while cutting back on foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol can significantly lower your blood pressure. One way to stick to a healthy diet is to write down everything you eat. Keeping a diary for even just a week can make people aware of their true eating habits.
Groundbreaking research published in 1998 in the journal Diabetes reported that nearly two-thirds of the test subjects who were insulin resistant (IR) also had high blood pressure, and insulin resistance is directly attributable to a high sugar, high grain diet, especially if accompanied by inadequate exercise. So, chances are that if you have hypertension, you also have poorly controlled blood sugar levels, because these two problems often go hand in hand.
Also, if you sit for several hours a day, try to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting. Research has found that too much sedentary time can contribute to many health conditions. Aim for five to 10 minutes of low-intensity physical activity — such as getting up to get a drink of water or going on a short walk — each hour. Consider setting a reminder in your email calendar or on your smartphone.
Cardamom is a seasoning that comes from India and is often used in South Asian cuisine. A small study of 20 people investigating the health effects of cardamom found that participants with high blood pressure saw significant reductions in their blood pressure readings after taking 1.5 grams of cardamom powder twice a day for 12 weeks. You can include cardamom seeds or powder in spice rubs, soups and stews, and even baked goods for a special flavor and a possible positive health benefit.
Do something that's moderate in intensity -- like brisk walking -- for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 or more days a week. That may be enough to keep you off medications or help them work better. Exercise can lower your blood pressure by as much as five to 15 points. Gradually make your workouts more intense to keep lowering your blood pressure to safer levels.
Dr. Palanismy notes that a particular form of stress reduction called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has been proven in research studies to reduce blood pressure. This approach to stress reduction uses meditation, body awareness and movement such as yoga to help people better observe their experiences, instead of being completely immersed in them. This helps them take a step back in stressful situations.
“This does not mean I want them exercising so hard that they pass out, but I want them to be challenged, even if it means taking a break if they have to,” he said. “For some people, that may mean nothing more than a gentle walk with periodic breaks, but as the weeks go on they need to challenge themselves to get rid of those breaks, little by little.”
I do all of that. I as on bp meds for 10 years, got sick in 2008, went off all pharma meds, got lots of help from alternative medicine, was off all pharma meds for 9 years and completely and totally changed my diet and lifestyle, then in Oct 2016 my bp started to climb again and, after I had hernia surgery in Nov 2016, my bp went sky-high and won’t come back down no matter what alternative thing I do and won’t stay down unless I am taking bp pills. My primary doctor and cardiologist are trying to say I have essential hypertension–when I was off all bp and pharma meds for 9 years and had no issues with my bp. Nope. Not buying it. Baffled to the high heavens why this time, I can’t seem to get back off bp meds. Working on lots of different things, but haven’t found that magic “aha” item that is causing this yet. Started NP Thyroid and low-dose Naltrexone for hypo/Hashi and all-over body pain/autoimmune and am hoping once they help stabilize my body processes that maybe they will also impact the hbp. Also naturally taking care of female hormones that are off (postmenopausal at age 50).
Knowing what changes to make is only the first step; following through in sustainable, practical ways is the tougher aspect of healthy living. This is where health coaching, one of the fastest-growing professional fields, can make all the difference. Many patients know what diet and lifestyle changes are needed, but they have trouble following through day to day. A health coach can provide the more frequent support and accountability that a general healthcare provider cannot.
Eat salad with an oil and vinegar vinaigrette. Consume a CoQ10 with Krill Oil and fish oil with sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and/or salmon. Eat steel cut oatmeal every other day per week (1 bowl). Drink a cup of Yogi Stress Relief tea. Drink plenty of water and walk for 15 to 30 minutes per day. Minimize stress, and take a medication if all else fails.
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.
“Weight is one of the most important determiners of blood pressure,” says John Bisognano, MD, director of the Hypertension Clinic at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York. “Once someone’s BMI is over 25 to 28, taking off a few pounds will make a big difference in treating high blood pressure.” (A body mass index of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, while 30 and higher is obese.)
Reduce the stress in your life. Long-term stress can lead to high blood pressure. There are small lifestyle changes you can make to both combat stress and to manage the effects of it in healthy ways. Exercise, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, practicing yoga, meditation, or deep breathing, meditating, praying, journaling, laughing, listening to music, spending time with family and friends, and playing with animals can all help reduce your stress and lower blood pressure. Learn about more tips for reducing stress.
Get moving at least a little bit every day, with a standard recommendation of 30-60 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week. Get your heart pumping at a moderate intensity for a few times a week, and mix it up with some strength training. Because life happens, on the days when you can’t fit it in, try to build more activity into your day by parking further away, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or even just doing a quick sprint or two up and down the block. Every little bit helps.
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.
“We have many people with hypertension who come to Pritikin,” says Pritikin’s Associate Medical Director Danine Fruge, MD, “and within three days, many have blood pressures that have dropped so low that we need to reduce their medications or take them off their pills altogether. Yes, just three days. That’s how quickly and powerfully our bodies respond to healthy food, exercise, and other lifestyle changes.”
Basil is a delicious herb that goes well in a variety of foods. It also might help lower your blood pressure. In rodents, basil extract has been shown to lower blood pressure, although only briefly. The chemical eugenol, which is found in basil, may block certain substances that tighten blood vessels. This may lead to a drop in blood pressure. More studies are needed.
If you’re eating more fruits and vegetables, you’re already taking a positive step toward reducing salt and enhancing potassium intake. Sodium can be found in abundance in processed foods – anything that comes in a package, can, or especially from a fast food restaurant. If you’re over 50, or at higher risk, aim for no more than 1,500 mg/day. Check your food labels for sodium content. If you see that a food has more than 400-500 mg in a serving, see if there’s a lower-sodium option.
The act of taking your own blood pressure won’t lower it, but getting to know your numbers can help you better understand what’s healthy and what’s not for you. “The first time patients have a high blood pressure reading in the doctor’s office, we don’t usually start treating right way,” says Dr. Goldberg. That’s because individual readings can vary, especially in potentially high-stress situations like a doctor’s visit.
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.
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.
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.