A few years ago, the federal government revised its high blood pressure guidelines after research showed that even slightly elevated blood pressure starts damaging the arteries and increasing the risk of a heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. The new guidelines specify the blood pressure numbers that indicate when a person is considered “hypertensive,” as well as a new category for “prehypertensive” people who are at risk for developing high blood pressure. The new category is a red flag to spur Americans to make the kinds of lifestyle changes that you are interested in. The idea is to prevent the upward creep of blood pressure that tends to happen with age.
It’s well known that high sodium can increase blood pressure. To cut back, I recommend patients avoid adding extra salt to foods, avoid foods such as pretzels where there is visible salt, and cut back on prepared foods such as microwavable meals, canned soups and restaurant meals. High-potassium foods, such as bananas and sweet potatoes, can be substituted to offset the effects of sodium to help keep blood pressure down.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, refers to the pressure of blood against your artery walls. Over time, high blood pressure can cause blood vessel damage that leads to heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and other problems. Hypertension is sometimes called the silent killer because it produces no symptoms and can go unnoticed — and untreated — for years.
Stress hormones constrict your blood vessels and can lead to temporary spikes in blood pressure. In addition, over time, stress can trigger unhealthy habits that put your cardiovascular health at risk. These might include overeating, poor sleep, and misusing drugs and alcohol. For all these reasons, reducing stress should be a priority if you're looking to lower your blood pressure.
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.
What these scientists found was that while drug treatments for mild hypertension may be effective at lowering blood pressure, they were not effective in reducing overall mortality. Put more bluntly, hypertension patients in these studies died at about the same rate whether they took medication or not. These findings reaffirm an important health principle: Treating the symptoms of disease is not the same thing as causing health.
Stress, along with the methods some use to compensate for it, such as overeating, smoking, or drinking, can exacerbate problems with blood pressure. To help reduce stress, identify the contributing factors. Where possible, minimize these stressors, or when that cannot be done, determine the most effective methods to cope with them such as meditation or dedicating more time to hobbies.
3. Quit smoking and alcohol: Because, neither of the two is of any benefit to your health. What's more is that smoking is listed as a causative factor for almost all diseases. You name a disease, and smoking will be a contributing factor to it. Alcohol, on the other hand, has direct links with increasing blood pressure. No amount of alcohol intake is safe or healthy for men or women.
Too much booze is known to raise blood pressure. But having just a little bit could do the opposite. Light to moderate drinking (defined as one drink or fewer per day) is associated with a lower risk for hypertension in women, according to research from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Moderate drinking could play a role in heart disease prevention too, studies show.
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.