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.
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Bananas are one great source of potassium, but there are other tasty ways to get your fill. Potatoes actually pack more potassium than the yellow fruit (and you might be surprised to learn there are plenty of other health benefits of potatoes, too). Sweet potatoes, tomatoes, orange juice, kidney beans, peas, cantaloupe, honeydew, and dried fruits like prunes or raisins are other good sources. In all, you should aim to get 2,000 to 4,000 mg of potassium a day, Van Horn recommends.
Most types of exercise: aerobic, weight training, and isometric hand-grip exercises helped patients lower blood pressure, with people doing isometric hand-grip exercises showing the most blood pressure reduction (about 10 percent). This was greater than the benefit obtained from a mild aerobic exercise like walking. However, the researchers speculated that this could be related to the lack of intensity or shorter duration of walking done by the subjects. Some older studies have indicated that intense walking over 35 minutes done regularly confers the same cardiovascular benefits. Comparing various alternative approaches, exercise has some of the strongest evidence out there for lowering high blood pressure.
The connection between caffeine consumption and high blood pressure is not well understood, but there is ample evidence to indicate that if you have hypertension, coffee and other caffeinated drinks and foods can exacerbate your condition. Caffeine is a drug, and while it's entirely legal and widely consumed, it can have a powerful effect on your individual physiology. If you want to eliminate caffeine from your diet, try to do it gradually over a period of days or even weeks in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms like headaches.
If you’ve ever tested your blood pressure at home, you’ve probably discovered that you don’t get a consistent number. Numbers can jump up or down 20, 30, or even 40 points in one day — sometimes in just a few minutes. It's different at different times of the day, and no two days are the same. So if your systolic pressure goes from 150 in the doctor’s office to 120 at home, do you have hypertension? Prehypertension? Neither of these? How do you know?
Certain groups of people—the elderly, African Americans, and those with a family history of high blood pressure—are more likely than others to have blood pressure that's particularly salt-sensitive. But because there's no way to tell whether any one individual is at risk, everyone should consume less sodium, says Eva Obarzanek, PhD, a research nutritionist at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
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 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.”
If you are insulin resistant, you'll definitely want to include weight training in your exercise program. When you work individual muscle groups, you increase blood flow to those muscles. Good blood flow will increase your insulin sensitivity. Depending on your physical condition when you embark on your exercise program, you may need to consult with a health care professional for help increasing to the intensity required to lower your insulin level. Exercise in combination with the supplement L-arginine has been shown to correct the abnormal functioning of blood vessels seen in people with chronic heart failure. However, I would view this more as a drug approach and not necessarily a supplement you would consider using for optimizing health in general. L-arginine probably works through its interaction with nitric oxide. I would consider it an adjunct, not a replacement, for coenzymeQ10, which is a well-proven therapy for heart failure.
Magnesium. High magnesium intake is associated with lower blood pressure and may have a synergistic effect with potassium. Increasing both nutrients while moderately reducing sodium can lower blood pressure to the same extent as a single medication (17). Magnesium stimulates vasodilators and can inhibit free radical formation in blood vessels (18). Nuts, seeds, spinach, beet greens, and chocolate are good whole food sources.
When your blood pressure rises, your heart is working harder to pump blood to the rest of your body. This may lead to heart failure or a heart attack, especially in people with heart disease. Furthermore, the extra force exerted by blood may cause blood vessels to burst, resulting in bleeding. Blood vessels in the brain are especially likely to rupture, which can lead to a stroke.
Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk of developing hypertension (20), and large doses of vitamin D (50,000 IU per week) have been shown to lower blood pressure over eight weeks (21). One mechanism by which vitamin D may lower blood pressure is through suppressing renin, which regulates mean arterial blood pressure (22). Sun exposure is an easy and cheap way to get vitamin D.
You can buy the capsules available in pharmacies. You should take two capsules every day, one in the morning and one in the evening. Usually, there is no side effect to these capsules, but you may experience some itching. If you do, discontinue taking these capsules. Otherwise, taking the cod liver oil capsules for a couple months will help reduce your high blood pressure levels.
2. Take the right nutrients. Talk with your chiropractor or other healthcare professional about the wide range of well-studied nutrients that, along with dietary and lifestyle modifications, can help normalize your blood pressure. One meta-analysis found magnesium supplements could lower blood pressure. Likewise, researchers find a small but significant decline in blood pressure for people with hypertension who use fish oil. (You can get all of fish oil’s benefits combined with anti-inflammatory flax oil and GLA in our Optimal Omega.)
Olive leaf extract. In one 2008 study, supplementing with 1,000 mg of olive leaf extract daily for eight weeks caused a significant dip in both blood pressure and LDL ("bad cholesterol") in people with borderline hypertension. If you want to incorporate olive leaf extract as a natural adjunct to a nutritionally sound diet, you should look for fresh leaf liquid extracts for maximum synergistic potency. You can also prepare your own olive leaf tea by placing a large teaspoon of dried olive leaves in a tea ball or herb sack. Place it in about two quarts of boiling water and let it steep for three to 10 minutes. The tea should be a medium amber color when done.
There are more worrisome facts about medications, notes Dr. Fruge. Drug treatment frequently has annoying and sometimes dangerous side effects, and never cures the disease. All too often, blood pressure problems grow progressively worse despite the use of medications. That’s deeply troubling because hypertension is a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, and premature death.
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.
Also, be sure that the quality chocolate has large quantities (a minimum of 70%) of cocoa - the active ingredient that lowers the blood pressure. Cocoa has antioxidant-rich compounds called flavanoids, which help dilate blood vessels and assist in glucose metabolism. Surprisingly, dark chocolate contains more of these antioxidant compounds than even the famed blueberry.
The bottom line, she tells WebMD, is that you have a choice when it comes to exercise. "Some people like to work out all at once, but others say they can't comply with an exercise program because they have no time. These findings suggest people with time crunches and busy schedules can fit bits of exercise in throughout the day and reap the same health benefits."
Diabetics often have lower recommendations for blood pressure, the maximum normal value being seen as 130/80-85. However, it’s questionable whether it’s a good idea to medicate your blood pressure levels down to those values. Diabetics can probably stick to approximately the same upper limit as people with heart disease: 140/90 (according to new studies and expert comments, as well as the latest recommendations from the American Diabetes Association, ADA).