Exercise. Doctors recommend at least 150 minutes per week of exercise to help reduce blood pressure. Brisk walking is excellent for reducing blood pressure and improving overall cardiovascular health, but other exercises can work too. Try jogging, riding a bike, swimming, dancing, or interval training to get your aerobic exercise. Strength training is also important to your heart health and can help reduce blood pressure.
Low levels of vitamin D—which the body gets from fortified foods, supplements, or the skin’s exposure to sunlight—have been linked to high blood pressure. But most research has found that taking supplements doesn't seem to help. Dr. Bisognano says the jury’s still out on how the two are linked. “I have found that people with extremely low vitamin D levels can have high blood pressure that’s more difficult to treat,” he says, “but I can’t be sure whether that’s the driving issue.”
There are a large number of prescription medications that are commonly used to help lower and maintain blood pressure within a healthy range. These include diuretics, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and many more. And, while the right medication can be a great tool in fighting high blood pressure, there are many other ways in which some patients may be able to control their condition naturally.
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.
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.
The connection between caffeine consumption and high blood pressure is not well understood, but there is ample evidence to indicate that if you have hypertension, coffee and other caffeinated drinks and foods can exacerbate your condition. Caffeine is a drug, and while it's entirely legal and widely consumed, it can have a powerful effect on your individual physiology. If you want to eliminate caffeine from your diet, try to do it gradually over a period of days or even weeks in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms like headaches.
It’s well known that high sodium can increase blood pressure. To cut back, I recommend patients avoid adding extra salt to foods, avoid foods such as pretzels where there is visible salt, and cut back on prepared foods such as microwavable meals, canned soups and restaurant meals. High-potassium foods, such as bananas and sweet potatoes, can be substituted to offset the effects of sodium to help keep blood pressure down.
In most cases where high blood pressure is diagnosed, the cause remains unclear. One review paper in the International Journal of Hypertension explains that this accounts for around 90% of all hypertension diagnosis and is usually referred to as essential hypertension. Secondary hypertension is diagnosed when a cause can be identified. Potential causes of secondary hypertension may include:
Some examples of aerobic exercise you may try to lower blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. You can also try high-intensity interval training, which involves alternating short bursts of intense activity with subsequent recovery periods of lighter activity. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Aim to include strength training exercises at least two days a week. Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program.
Find activities you enjoy, and aim for 30 minutes a day of "exercise" on most days of the week. If you can't stand the gym, not a problem. Dancing counts. So do yoga, hiking, gardening, and anything else that gets your heart beating a bit faster. Since you're going to be making it a habit, pick things you'll want to do often. Let your doctor know what you have in mind, so they can make sure you're ready.
There are many popular medical myths about high blood pressure. For example, many physicians believe that high blood pressure is an “inevitable consequence of aging;” that the “only viable treatment option for high blood pressure patients is medication”; that high blood pressure patients must take their medications “for the rest of their lives”; and, worst of all, that high blood pressure medications are “safe and effective.”
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.
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But weightlifting can also have long-term benefits to blood pressure that outweigh the risk of a temporary spike for most people. And it can improve other aspects of cardiovascular health that can help to reduce overall cardiovascular risk. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends incorporating strength training exercises of all the major muscle groups into a fitness routine at least two times a week.
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.
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.
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.
Studying men with hypertension who came to Pritikin, scientists at UCLA found that within three weeks, the men had significantly healthier levels of blood pressure. In fact, those who arrived at Pritikin taking hypertension drugs left Pritikin two to three weeks later no longer needing their medications, or with their dosages significantly reduced.1
A diet that’s low in fat and carbohydrates can improve artery function, according to a 2012 study by Johns Hopkins researchers. After six months, those on the low-carb diet had lost more weight, and at a faster pace. But in both groups, when weight was lost—and especially when belly fat shrank—the arteries were able to expand better, allowing blood to travel more freely. The study shows that you don’t have to cut out all dietary fat to shrink belly fat. For heart health, simply losing weight and exercising seems to be key.
Blood pressure is a measurement of the force that blood applies to your arterial walls as it pumps from your heart throughout your body. It also represents how hard your heart is working to push the blood. When blood pressure is higher, it means the heart must work harder to push blood through your system. In turn, the risk of heart disease or heart attack increases.
Monitor your blood pressure and talk with your doctor. A medical professional can check your blood pressure by using a sphygmomanometer and a stethoscope, or you can check it yourself using an automatic blood pressure monitoring device. If you have concerns about your blood pressure, talk to your doctor to determine what treatment options may work best for you. Blood pressure is usually divided into categories, which include: