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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.
Arteries are naturally flexible and smooth, which allows blood to easily move throughout the body. High blood pressure creates extra force against the artery walls, which damages the lining of the arteries. As they become narrower and harder, this restricts blood flow, and when blood flow is lowered, the heart has to work harder to pump it through the body, which only makes the problem worse.
3. Eat a healthy diet. Food is another powerful medicine. Whether you need to lose weight or not, eating well can improve your blood pressure. That means eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils (such as olive and canola), foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, walnuts and flaxseed, for example) and two or three servings daily of low-fat or nonfat dairy products. It also means avoiding saturated and trans fats.
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.
A 2013 study published in “Hypertension” concluded that flaxseed lowers blood pressure in hypertensive patients. It is a great home remedy for high blood pressure. More than 100 patients diagnosed with peripheral artery disease, a condition associated with high blood pressure, were assigned to a flaxseed group or a placebo group. The former ate 30 grams of flaxseed every day for 6 months.
It’s a common question among our guests at the Pritikin Longevity Center, who are taught how devastating the high-salt U.S. diet is to our blood pressure and overall health. Searching for alternatives, people often ask: What about salt substitutes with potassium? And what about MSG? Isn’t it a bad choice? Here are answers, some of which may surprise you.
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).
Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, will act to quickly lower blood pressure. The average American leads a very sedentary lifestyle, but daily exercise has been shown to be a key component in a healthy routine. A sedentary lifestyle, in combination with poor diet, results in excess weight or even obesity - one of the main triggers of hypertension.
As simple as it sounds, breathing is an effective technique to lower blood pressure. Slow breathing and meditative practices such as yoga can help decrease the stress hormones that elevate renin — a kidney enzyme that raises blood pressure. "Sit in a comfortable chair with armrests. Your body should be as relaxed as possible. Place one hand on a part of your chest or preferably your abdomen. Watch your hand rise and fall with each breath...feel the breath as it moves into your abdomen,” Dr. John M. Kennedy, a cardiologist in Los Angeles, Calif., and author of the book The Heart Health Bible told Medical Daily in an email. This should be repeated seven times and can become a daily habit by doing deep breathing 10 minutes in the morning.
Sleep. Short and poor-quality sleep are both associated with raised blood pressure (40). On the other side of the spectrum, excessively long sleep may also be harmful. One study found increased blood pressure in those who got fewer than five hours of sleep per night and in those who averaged more than nine hours of sleep per night, when compared with people who slept around seven hours (41). I suspect that it’s not the long sleep itself that is the problem, but that some underlying condition is both increasing sleep requirement and raising blood pressure.