Perhaps you’ve never given much thought to your blood pressure, especially if it’s been spot on for most of your life. But as you get older and deal with more stressful aspects of in life, it can affect your blood pressure. Maybe not quite high enough to require medication, but it may be something to keep an eye on it. And this can affect even those who eat well, exercise most days, and do all the right things to stay healthy.
How low should you go? Aim to keep your sodium intake below 1,500 mg for healthy blood pressure, recommends the American Heart Association. That’s about half of what most Americans consume per day. Going easy on the saltshaker can help, but you’ll make a bigger impact by watching the sodium count in packaged or processed foods, Obarzanek says. (Pay extra attention to bread and rolls, pizza, soup, cold cuts, poultry, and sandwiches, which tend to pack the most salt.) Then try these other simple ways to slash your salt intake.
Smoking is a habit that can worsen nearly any health condition. With each cigarette smoked, blood pressure increases temporarily. Over the long-term, smoking can compound the health problems associated with high blood pressure by damaging blood vessels and arteries and causing inflammation throughout the body. While quitting may not be easy, programs such as Commit to Quit can help with resources such as assistance from medical professionals, prescription medications, and group support.
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.
A 2013 review on yoga and blood pressure found an average blood pressure decrease of 3.62 mm Hg diastolic and 4.17 mm Hg systolic when compared to those who didn’t exercise. Studies of yoga practices that included breath control, postures, and meditation were nearly twice as effective as yoga practices that didn’t include all three of these elements (24).
Don’t assume that your doctor is aware of these facts. If you are diagnosed with mild, high blood pressure, you likely will be prescribed medication, instructed that it is helpful, and told that you must take it for the rest of your life. But before accepting this potentially dangerous treatment, it may be to your advantage to seek answers to the following questions: “What caused my high blood pressure?” and “Can I remove those causes and reverse this condition?”
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.”
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.
The American Health Association actually looked at different kinds of meditation techniques ranging from focussed attention to Transcendental meditation (TM), and contemplative forms like Zen and mindfulness techniques. Out of these, TM was found to have a modest effect on blood pressure reduction, but whether it is superior to other techniques is hard to say since head-to-head trials have not taken place.
I do all of that. I as on bp meds for 10 years, got sick in 2008, went off all pharma meds, got lots of help from alternative medicine, was off all pharma meds for 9 years and completely and totally changed my diet and lifestyle, then in Oct 2016 my bp started to climb again and, after I had hernia surgery in Nov 2016, my bp went sky-high and won’t come back down no matter what alternative thing I do and won’t stay down unless I am taking bp pills. My primary doctor and cardiologist are trying to say I have essential hypertension–when I was off all bp and pharma meds for 9 years and had no issues with my bp. Nope. Not buying it. Baffled to the high heavens why this time, I can’t seem to get back off bp meds. Working on lots of different things, but haven’t found that magic “aha” item that is causing this yet. Started NP Thyroid and low-dose Naltrexone for hypo/Hashi and all-over body pain/autoimmune and am hoping once they help stabilize my body processes that maybe they will also impact the hbp. Also naturally taking care of female hormones that are off (postmenopausal at age 50).
Flavanols an anti-inflammatory and heart-protective antioxidant found in raw cacao may protect against cardiovascular disease, reduce the risk of stroke, and help improve blood circulation. Thus lowering your blood pressure. Cacao contains over 700 compounds and the complex antioxidants found in it known as polyphenols help reduce ‘bad cholesterol’ and prevent hardening of the arteries.
Basil is a delicious herb that goes well in a variety of foods. It also might help lower your blood pressure. In rodents, basil extract has been shown to lower blood pressure, although only briefly. The chemical eugenol, which is found in basil, may block certain substances that tighten blood vessels. This may lead to a drop in blood pressure. More studies are needed.
Most doctors have been taught that once a diagnosis of “high blood pressure” has been made, blood pressure medication is the treatment of choice. As a result, many physicians believe that the current definition of “high” blood pressure is also the same level of blood pressure at which drug treatments are worthwhile. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
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.
Cinnamon is another tasty seasoning that requires little effort to include in your daily diet, and it may bring your blood pressure numbers down. One study done in rodents suggested that cinnamon extract lowered both sudden-onset and prolonged high blood pressure. However, the extract was given intravenously. It’s unclear if cinnamon consumed orally is also effective.
For example, eating a healthy diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats can limit dense low-density lipoprotein (LDL) deposits along the artery that contribute to high blood pressure. Limiting intake of processed foods can lower sodium intake and total cholesterol. This, in addition to exercise, can also help lead to weight loss. Research indicates that losing as little as nine pounds can have substantial impacts on blood pressure.
A long-term study concluded in 2014 found that people who ate more protein had a lower risk of high blood pressure. For those who ate an average of 100 grams of protein per day, there was a 40 percent lower risk of having high blood pressure than those on a low-protein diet (33). Those who also added regular fiber into their diet saw up to a 60 percent reduction of risk.
Having a bad day can impair our judgment and lead to most of us making not-so-wise lifestyle choices like binge eating, smoking, or drinking. These unhealthy habits done in excess can negatively affect our health, especially our blood pressure. As one in four Americans continue to suffer from the epidemic of high blood pressure, it is imperative for us to effectively avoid and reduce this highly preventable disease associated with heart attack and stroke, aneurysms, cognitive decline, and kidney failure. Fortunately, there are ways to bring down blood pressure without the use of medication.