The calculated difference between the systolic and diastolic pressures is also of interest. If the difference is large (e.g. 170/85), it could be the sign of stiff arteries – often caused by heart disease. This means the blood vessels can’t dilate enough when the heart sends out a pulse, which forces the blood pressure to increase. (The walls can’t expand, so the pressure rises when the heart tries to pump the blood through.)
Also focus on eating nitrate and nitrite-rich vegetables (not to be confused with the other types of nitrates and nitrites that are found in processed meats) . Nitrates and nitrates from vegetables help to relax and dilate blood vessels throughout your body and increase blood flow. Although it’s a short-term effect, eating more nitrate-rich vegetables like beets, cabbage, leafy greens, and vegetable juices, can reduce blood pressure for a few hours. Recent studies have also shown that those who drank beetroot juice showed an immediate effect on lowering blood pressure. By eating plant-based foods consistently, you’ll see their regular benefits.
Editor’s Note: Considerable controversy exists about whether fat or cholesterol are, per se, drivers of atherosclerosis. They are implicated in some studies, while others indicate that quality of fat, and placement in a wider dietary pattern, may be more significant to ultimate impact. What seems clear, however, is that a diet high in animal products, sugar, and processed foods is often a recipe for high blood pressure and heart disease.
Scientists have long debated the effects of caffeine on blood pressure. But an analysis of 34 studies seems to have delivered a verdict. On average, consuming 200 to 300 mg caffeine (the amount found in one or two cups of coffee) raises systolic blood pressure by 8 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 6 mmHg. And the effects can last for up to three hours. (For reference, 8 ounces of drip coffee contain 100-125 mg of caffeine; the same amount of tea, 50 mg; an equal quantity of cola, about 40 mg.)
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.
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.