The heartening news is that most people can effectively control their blood pressure without the need for medications by following a healthy lifestyle like the Pritikin Program. “Those who still need medications usually require a lower dose and/or fewer drugs, thereby reducing their risk of suffering adverse side effects from the medications,” states Dr. Fruge.
Vitamin K2. Adequate vitamin K2 helps keep calcium from residing in blood vessels, thereby preventing hypertension and calcification (19). Vitamins K1 and K2 have different forms and functions. Vitamin K1 is abundant in leafy greens and many other foods, while vitamin K2 sources are more uncommon: natto (fermented soy), some cheeses, butter from grass-fed cows, goose liver, and egg yolks.
“It’s important to remind all the healthcare people out there that we need to arm ourselves with every tool in the arsenal,” he said. “That includes medications and procedures of course, but we really need to learn more about lifestyle medicine, and a lot of those gaps that are created during our training, we really need to spend time filling so that we have the tools available to treat diseases better — and more cheaply, for that matter.”
It goes without saying that when you don’t sleep well, you don’t feel well, and your body just doesn’t work well. In fact, research has shown for decades that a strong link between insomnia and hypertension exists. Reevaluating your daytime decisions or nighttime routines leading up to bedtime can help you find what works best for you in getting a good night’s rest.
Sipping on not one but four cups of tea daily can help control blood pressure. A study presented at the European Society of Hyper tension in Milan found those who avoided coffee and tea consumption all together had the highest rates of blood pressure, pulse pressure, and heart rate. Those who drank tea the most often, between one to four cups a day, had the lowest systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings, as well as the lowest pulse pressure and heart rate. Pinkies up, for your blood pressure’s sake.
“We have many people with hypertension who come to Pritikin,” says Pritikin’s Associate Medical Director Danine Fruge, MD, “and within three days, many have blood pressures that have dropped so low that we need to reduce their medications or take them off their pills altogether. Yes, just three days. That’s how quickly and powerfully our bodies respond to healthy food, exercise, and other lifestyle changes.”
First, keep in mind that drugs have limited success. Most studies on diuretics and other blood pressure-lowering drugs suggest they lower the risk of cardiovascular events among those with blood pressure between 140/90 and 159/99 by 15 to 20%.3 The problem is, with this range of blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular-related deaths has increased by 300 to 400% compared to people with normal blood pressure.
But the dark chocolate should be 60 to 70 percent cacao. A review of studies on dark chocolate has found that eating one to two squares of dark chocolate per day may help lower the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and inflammation. The benefits are thought to come from the flavonoids present in chocolate with more cocoa solids. The flavonoids help dilate, or widen, your blood vessels (25).
7. Cut down on sodium intake: Processed and packaged food needs to go out of your kitchen, if you want healthy levels of blood pressure. This is because processed food is loaded with added preservatives to increase their shelf life. Also, prepare your food with lesser salt as high intake of salt is linked to risks of high blood pressure and stroke.
Even if you don’t keep a salt shaker on the table, you may have too much sodium in your diet. Processed foods -- especially canned soups, salad dressings, snack mixes, and fast food -- are a large contributor of sodium to your diet. Read food labels and choose low-sodium options when possible. Aim to consume less than 2,300 milligrams per day, and less than 1,500 milligrams if you’ve already been diagnosed with hypertension.
In Sweden, blood pressure is often wrongly measured at clinics with the subjects lying down. The differences tend to be small, however: when seated, the systolic blood pressure registers a little lower, and the diastolic a little higher. Trying this on myself, I noted readings of 116/73 averaged over several seated measurements and an average of 119/72 lying down.
Stiff blood vessels can increase blood pressure, but dark chocolate contains flavonoids to keep your arteries flexible. Three ounces of dark chocolate a day (milk chocolate doesn’t have the same flavonoids) can help reduce blood pressure in older people who have isolated systolic hypertension, which is when only the upper number of a blood pressure reading is high, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Wine, tea, and fruits and veggies also contain flavonoids.
Regular visits with your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is well-controlled, check with your doctor about how often you need to check it. Your doctor may suggest checking it daily or less often. If you're making any changes in your medications or other treatments, your doctor may recommend you check your blood pressure starting two weeks after treatment changes and a week before your next appointment.