If you’re eating more fruits and vegetables, you’re already taking a positive step toward reducing salt and enhancing potassium intake. Sodium can be found in abundance in processed foods – anything that comes in a package, can, or especially from a fast food restaurant. If you’re over 50, or at higher risk, aim for no more than 1,500 mg/day. Check your food labels for sodium content. If you see that a food has more than 400-500 mg in a serving, see if there’s a lower-sodium option.
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.
Exercise. Doctors recommend at least 150 minutes per week of exercise to help reduce blood pressure. Brisk walking is excellent for reducing blood pressure and improving overall cardiovascular health, but other exercises can work too. Try jogging, riding a bike, swimming, dancing, or interval training to get your aerobic exercise. Strength training is also important to your heart health and can help reduce blood pressure.
If you cannot be sure that your diet includes sufficient potassium, consider supplementation. However, including potassium in your diet gives better results, as an intake from food can be accessed by the body more efficiently. Potassium-rich foods include squash, sardines, salmon, raisins, potatoes, organs, pears, legumes, beets, bananas, carrots, and apricots, among many other fruits and vegetables.
Elevating your feet will not lower blood pressure and will actually increase the blood pressure reading when your feet are higher than your heart. On the other hand, if you are doing activities to relieve stress such as yoga (which often elevates your legs, such as legs-up-the-wall pose), then over the long run, these stress reducing activities may help to decrease your blood pressure (but it is not the act of elevating the legs that is lowering the blood pressure it is the stress relieving activity).
Over a 12-year period, 174 patients diagnosed with mild to severe high blood pressure were seen at the Center for Conservative Therapy and were placed on a medically-supervised, water-only fasting regime. The treatment procedure included an average water-only fasting period of 10.6 days, followed by a supervised refeeding period of about one week with a whole, natural foods diet. The results of the study are summarized in Figure 2.
Low levels of vitamin D—which the body gets from fortified foods, supplements, or the skin’s exposure to sunlight—have been linked to high blood pressure. But most research has found that taking supplements doesn't seem to help. Dr. Bisognano says the jury’s still out on how the two are linked. “I have found that people with extremely low vitamin D levels can have high blood pressure that’s more difficult to treat,” he says, “but I can’t be sure whether that’s the driving issue.”
Fish are a great source of lean protein. Fatty fish like mackerel and salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and lower triglycerides. In addition to these fish sources, trout contains vitamin D. Foods rarely contain vitamin D, and this hormone-like vitamin has properties that can lower blood pressure.
Ginger, the spicy root often used in Asian cooking, could also help lower blood pressure. According to M. Jan Ghayur and A. Gilani from The Aga Khan University Medical College in Pakistan and published in the January 2005 issue of the "Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology," ginger can reduce blood pressure by blocking the voltage-dependent calcium channels. MedlinePlus agrees that ginger does reduce high blood pressure, but individuals who take medication for their high blood pressure should use ginger with precaution because ginger might lower it too much or cause an irregular heartbeat.
Other exercise options that don’t require a gym membership include body weight exercises, like pushups, squats, and jumping jacks. These exercises can be done at home or outside. For people who like going to the gym or running, these can be good ways to build community, notes Parker. Apps like Fitbit and MapMyRun can be helpful if you like keeping track of your steps, calories burned, weight, or number of miles run.
The sweet serves up flavanols that help lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels and boosting blood flow. On average, regular dark chocolate consumption could help lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 5 points and your diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by almost 3 points, suggests an Australian analysis. How dark are we talking? Experts haven't been able to determine an ideal percentage of cocoa, says Vivian Mo, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. But the higher you go, the more benefits you'll get.
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