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.
For a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University looked at how drinking three daily servings of hibiscus tea over six weeks changed blood pressure in people with pre-hypertension or mild high blood pressure. They found reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, especially in people with higher systolic blood pressure to start. Hibiscus tea is loaded with antioxidants, including phenols and anthocyanins, which might explain the effect.
Although medications can lower blood pressure, they may cause side effects such as leg cramps, dizziness, and insomnia. “The best habits to establish for reducing blood pressure are the same ones for a healthy life; follow an anti-inflammatory diet, do consistent low-level physical activity throughout the day, and the time plenty of time to reduce stress by learning how to smell the roses,” said Dr. Barry Sears, president of the Inflammation Research Foundation, to Medical Daily in an email. Lowering blood pressure can be attained without a prescription, not just by remaining alert on salty foods, but also with these five little-known everyday habits:
One drink counts as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits. "High levels of alcohol are clearly detrimental," says Obarzanek. "But moderate alcohol is protective of the heart. If you are going to drink, drink moderately." (And if you're trying to keep your weight in check, stick to these low-calorie alcoholic drinks recommended by registered dietitians.)
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.
I have had “pre hypertension” with BPs of 135/90. I started a twice a day meditation/deep breathing practice, and an attitude shift away from “being busy”, and my BP fell to the 110/70 range. This process works. I am a physician myself. Go for it. Don’t fall for the myth that everyone has to be on physician prescribed medications for virtually every health issue in the galaxy.
Find activities you enjoy, and aim for 30 minutes a day of "exercise" on most days of the week. If you can't stand the gym, not a problem. Dancing counts. So do yoga, hiking, gardening, and anything else that gets your heart beating a bit faster. Since you're going to be making it a habit, pick things you'll want to do often. Let your doctor know what you have in mind, so they can make sure you're ready.
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.
Consuming flaxseed in a variety of foods was linked to a reduction in both systolic blood pressure (when the heart contracts) and diastolic blood pressure (when the heart relaxes) over six months in people with hypertension, according to a study published in the journal Hypertension. Even when study participants took blood pressure medication, they experienced a benefit from flaxseed. It's not clear what in flaxseed may be responsible for the blood pressure reduction, but it may be any or all of these four compounds: alpha linolenic acid, lignans, peptides and fiber.
6. Cultivate stress management. You don’t need a meta-analysis of cohort studies to prove stress can raise blood pressure, but they exist. You can’t eliminate stress, but you can minimize its impact. Research shows yoga and meditation create effective strategies to manage stress and blood pressure. If those aren’t your thing, consider other stress-relieving tactics including deep breathing or practicing mindfulness.