Certain commercial devices available in the market today help people gather data about their breathing rate and depth, relay the information back to them and play soothing music via headphones to help them relax. One such device quoted by the researchers was Resperate. I tend to think of such devices as basically a type of "assisted-biofeedback" therapy. Such devices could have a role to play in treating hypertension.
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.
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.
A healthy diet is the first step in regaining control of high blood pressure, but don’t let the term “diet” fool you. This is a lifelong commitment to healthy eating. Based on the approach known as the DASH diet (dietary approaches to stop hypertension), patients should focus on consuming lean protein, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and low-fat dairy. By doing so, systolic blood pressure (the top number) could be reduced by as much as 14 points. Of course, what isn’t included is nearly as important as what is when it comes to a healthy diet. Those with high blood pressure should also focus on keeping salt and sugar intake to a minimum.
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Note: The fasting and high blood pressure study described in this article was funded in part by a grant from the National Health Association. It was conducted at the Center for Conservative Therapy in Penngrove, California. The results appeared in the article, “Medically Supervised Water-Only Fasting in the Treatment of Hypertension,” published in June 2001 in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.
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.
Hypertension affects 33 percent of American adults, yet only 1 percent of hunter–gatherer populations following a traditional diet develop high blood pressure (5). The Standard American Diet, full of added sugars, refined grains, and industrial seed oils, sets the stage for hypertension to develop. The following nutrients and food guidelines, as part of a Paleo diet, can help lower blood pressure.
Eighty million U.S. adults, or one in three, have hypertension (1). Another one in three have prehypertension, defined as blood pressure in the range of 120–139/80–89 mmHg. In addition to costing $48.6 billion annually, hypertension is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, chronic renal failure, and stroke (1). Even prehypertension increases the risk of death from CVD (2). Because of its severity, hypertension requires immediate treatment, but prescription drugs may not be the answer.
Also, be sure that the quality chocolate has large quantities (a minimum of 70%) of cocoa - the active ingredient that lowers the blood pressure. Cocoa has antioxidant-rich compounds called flavanoids, which help dilate blood vessels and assist in glucose metabolism. Surprisingly, dark chocolate contains more of these antioxidant compounds than even the famed blueberry.
Drugs and medication: Certain drugs and medication can also lead to high blood pressure. Some forms, like birth control, are associated with long-term high blood pressure, while common over-the-counter medications—typically painkillers like “Aspirin,” ibuprofen, “Advil,” and “Motrin”—can all lead to acute spikes. This could be due to the presence of caffeine.
While medication can lower blood pressure, it may cause side effects such as leg cramps, dizziness, and insomnia. The good news is that most people can bring their numbers down naturally without drugs. “Lifestyle changes are an important part of prevention and treatment of high blood pressure,” says Brandie D. Williams, MD, FACC, a cardiologist at Texas Health Stephenville and Texas Health Physicians Group.
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.
4. Reduce intake of caffeine: In case you constantly need stimulants like tea or coffee to get you through the day, you definitely need to check your health. Moreover, caffeine can cause short-term spike on your blood pressure. Read here to know how many cups of tea or coffee you should have in a day in order to keep your blood pressure under control.
Vitamins C and E. Studies indicate that these vitamins can be helpful in lowering your blood pressure. Ideally, you'll want to get the right amount of both these nutrients through diet alone. If you decide you need a supplement, make sure to take a natural (not synthetic) form of vitamin E. You can tell what you're buying by carefully reading the label. Natural vitamin E is always listed as the "d-" form (d-alpha-tocopherol, d-beta-tocopherol, etc.) Synthetic vitamin E is listed as "dl-" forms.
5. Breathing better. Slow, deep breathing has been shown repeatedly to lower blood pressure by lowering stress hormones. Try to take 10 minutes daily to stop, relax your shoulder muscles, and breathe slowly. The correct breathing technique will cause your belly to expand, while your chest barely moves. Check this by placing one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen until you learn to breathe this way naturally.
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.
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