When added to a healthy diet, almonds can help influence lower blood pressure levels. In fact, almonds are included in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension — DASH — Diet. In the diet, almonds are included in the “nuts, seeds and legumes” group. The diet recommends eating four to five servings of this food group per week. With regard to almonds, one serving of almonds is just one-third cup. The healthy monounsaturated fat in almonds contributes to lower blood cholesterol levels and reduced arterial inflammation, which ultimately helps lower the pressure inside the arteries.
We asked clinicians from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s CardioVascular Institute how they advise their patients to keep blood pressure under control. While medication is the right solution for some people, the good news is that lifestyle changes can help reduce — and in some cases replace — the amount of medication needed. It’s a good place to start.
Exercise. Some patients will cringe at the suggestion of exercise, because they envision a chronic cardio scenario like a mouse on a running wheel. Spread the good news: exercise of all kinds—endurance, dynamic resistance, HIIT, isometric resistance—has the potential to reduce blood pressure (38). Whatever exercise your patients will actually do on a regular basis is the best recipe for success. In patients with extreme hypertension, be cautious with exercises that may further increase blood pressure to an unsafe zone (39).
Omega-3 fats are typically found in flaxseed oil, walnut oil and fish, with fish being by far the best source. Unfortunately, most fresh fish today contains dangerously high levels of mercury. Your best bet is to find a safe source of fish, or if this proves too difficult, supplement with a high quality krill oil, which has been found to be 48 times more potent than fish oil.
Most Americans—including 86% of those with high blood pressure—eat more salt than is advised by the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If you’re one of them, reducing your intake to less than the recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams (about a teaspoon) a day may make a big difference in your blood pressure (and even better if you can stay below the American Heart Association's 1,500-mg daily limit). Even just reducing your sodium intake by 10 or 20% can help, says Dr. Bisognano. “We ask people to decrease their consumption from sky-high to reasonable levels,” he adds. “Learn not to salt your eggs; finish your lunch without a pickle—you want to make little changes you can tolerate for the long term.”
Cat’s claw is an herbal medicine used in traditional Chinese practice to treat hypertension as well as neurological health problems. Studies of cat’s claw as a treatment for hypertension in rodents indicate that it may be helpful in reducing blood pressure by acting on calcium channels in your cells. You can get cat’s claw in supplement form from many health food stores.
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.
A study1 published earlier this year discovered that those who consumed 74 grams or more per day of fructose (the equivalent of about 2.5 sugary drinks) had a 77 percent greater risk of having blood pressure levels of 160/100 mmHg. (For comparison, a normal blood pressure reading is below 120/80 mmHg.) Consuming 74 grams or more of fructose daily also increased the risk of a 135/85 blood pressure reading by 26 percent, and 140/90 by 30 percent.
Two-thirds of Americans have either prehypertension or hypertension, both of which are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading cause of the death in the United States. However, prescription drugs may not be necessary to treat high blood pressure. Read on to learn what dietary changes, lifestyle strategies, and supplements can help lower blood pressure naturally.
Cold-water fish. Increasing serum measurements of DHA/EPA, markers of fish intake, are related to lower blood pressure (12, 13, 14). However, steer clear of most fish oil supplements and instead have patients obtain beneficial nutrients from whole foods whenever possible. A recent analysis showed that the three top-selling fish oils in the United States contained oxidized lipids that may be causing more harm than good (15). Beyond DHA and EPA, fish also have selenium, zinc, iron, and a highly absorbable protein that also may reduce blood pressure (16). Aim for cold-water fatty fish three times a week.