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.”
An aside: We don't much like taking medications, either. But if you end up needing blood pressure medicine to achieve a healthy blood pressure, don't be discouraged. The medicines are effective and safe, and they present only mild side effects, if any. Studies comparing older and newer blood pressure medicines found that one of the oldest and cheapest classes of drugs (the thiazide diuretics, such as hydrochlorothiazide and chlorthalidone) was as good as, or better than, the newer, more expensive ones.
The stronger the heart, the more efficiently it can perform. Those who are physically active and exercise regularly are far more likely to maintain healthy blood pressure than those who do not. According to the American Heart Association, 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity three to four times per week is all it takes on average to help reduce high blood pressure.
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.
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.
Consuming garlic is one of the fastest ways to reduce your blood pressure. According to Gloria Benavides, Ph.D., and David Kraus, Ph.D., of Alabama-based UAB Health System, eating garlic not only lowers your blood pressure but also can protect you against cardiovascular disease. They state that the compounds from garlic interact with your red blood cells, which allow your blood vessels to relax and your pressure to naturally lower. In a study published in the July-August 1993 issue of the journal "Pharmacotherapy," F. McMahon and colleagues proved that garlic reduces blood pressure. In this study, participants who had severe hypertension were given a garlic solution of 2,400mg of garlic containing 1.3 percent allicin, an organosulfur compound found in garlic that has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. In less than five hours, the participants' sitting blood pressure fell 7/16 mm Hg and within five to 14 hours, all their diastolic pressures dropped significantly.
Some of the risks of blood pressure-lowering medications include headaches, dizziness, depression, sleep problems, erectile dysfunction, and renal or cardiac dysfunction. Often, these side effects lead to additional prescription drugs like testosterone or Viagra. The good news is that dietary changes, lifestyle strategies, and supplements have the potential to reverse high blood pressure without the need for lifelong prescriptions.
You bet. As reported by ABC World News on September 16, 20103, one cardiologist believes the connection between stress and hypertension is undeniable, yet still does not receive the emphasis it deserves. In response, Dr. Kennedy developed a stress-relieving technique he calls "The 15 Minute Heart Cure," a set of breathing and creative visualization techniques that can be done anywhere, anytime. The technique is demonstrated in the ABC World News video above. By teaching your body to slow down and relax when stress hits -- essentially short-circuiting your physical stress reaction -- you can protect your health.
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.
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.