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.
As much as I want, these alternative therapies do not replace traditional approaches for blood pressure control (low salt diet, medications). The best way to look at them is as strategies to complement what your doctor has already been prescribing you for your high blood pressure. This could really help if you have mild hypertension, where alternative therapies could potentially help you get off your blood pressure medications, but I highly doubt anyone with severe hypertension is getting off their Norvasc just because they started doing transcendental meditation.
Alternative therapies are increasingly receiving more attention for treatment of everything from heart disease to chronic kidney disease (CKD) and now high blood pressure (or hypertension). The overarching principle to always keep in mind, though, is that while it might be "cool and fashionable" to treat your maladies with alternative therapies, not all such treatments are backed by hard science. Some interventions work, some don't. And yes, they could have harmful side effects as well. The best and brightest of us have fallen gullible victims to mumbo-jumbo alternative therapies for various illnesses; Steve Jobs tryst with pancreatic cancer being a case in point. Long story short, approach every treatment (including conventional medicine) as a level-headed, scientific skeptic.
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.
Even if you don’t keep a salt shaker on the table, you may have too much sodium in your diet. Processed foods -- especially canned soups, salad dressings, snack mixes, and fast food -- are a large contributor of sodium to your diet. Read food labels and choose low-sodium options when possible. Aim to consume less than 2,300 milligrams per day, and less than 1,500 milligrams if you’ve already been diagnosed with hypertension.
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.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has been proven best for controlling blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. People who follow the diet eat 2,000 calories a day of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods and whole grains. The diet is rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium, as well as protein and fiber, and low in sodium. Foods on the diet are low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol.
Keep in mind that sea salt and kosher salt contain the same amount of sodium as table salt. Salt substitutes contain potassium chloride, which is not safe for some people, so you may want to avoid it. Instead, look into sodium-free alternatives to replace salt in your diet, such as lemon juice, flavored vinegar, fresh herbs, and salt-free herb and spice blends.
Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, will act to quickly lower blood pressure. The average American leads a very sedentary lifestyle, but daily exercise has been shown to be a key component in a healthy routine. A sedentary lifestyle, in combination with poor diet, results in excess weight or even obesity - one of the main triggers of hypertension.
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.