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.
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.
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.
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.
Caffeine can raise blood pressure by tightening blood vessels and magnifying the effects of stress, says James Lane, PhD, a Duke University researcher who studies caffeine and cardiovascular health. "When you're under stress, your heart starts pumping a lot more blood, boosting blood pressure," he says. "And caffeine exaggerates that effect." (Not sure whether you need to cut back? Here are 6 physical symptoms that mean you're drinking too much coffee.)
If you have not been active for quite some time or if you are beginning a new activity or exercise program, take it gradually. Consult your healthcare professional if you have cardiovascular disease or any other preexisting condition. It's best to start slowly with something you enjoy, like taking walks or riding a bicycle. Scientific evidence strongly shows that physical activity is safe for almost everyone. Moreover, the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks.
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.
One of the easiest ways to manage your blood pressure is simply making healthy life choices such as eating low-sodium diet, committing to a regular exercise routine, and avoiding (excessive) alcohol. Smoking is one of the worst things that you can do to your cardiovascular system, and it’s important that you take steps to quit as soon as possible to avoid hypertension, even if you don’t yet suffer from it yet.
Certain groups of people—the elderly, African Americans, and those with a family history of high blood pressure—are more likely than others to have blood pressure that's particularly salt-sensitive. But because there's no way to tell whether any one individual is at risk, everyone should consume less sodium, says Eva Obarzanek, PhD, a research nutritionist at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
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.)