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.
Napping may do your heart some good. Adults with high blood pressure who took hour-long naps every day saw their systolic blood pressure drop an average of 5% over the course of the day in a 2015 study, compared to those who didn’t rest. Those who napped also had to take fewer blood pressure medications than those who didn’t, and seemed to have less damage to their arteries and their heart. The study was only able to show a correlation between napping and blood pressure reduction, but the authors say that the results do suggest a benefit to afternoon siestas.
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.
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.
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.
Enjoy a nice, sunny day and go for a brisk walk, for aerobic physical activity at least 30 minutes per day. Kennedy believes this "can decrease systolic blood pressure by 4-9 points." However, even "ten minutes a day can make all the difference." When blood pressure isn’t controlled, general isometric exercise is bad. Preferred cardiovascular exercises include: walking, running, cycling, and swimming.