Having a bad day can impair our judgment and lead to most of us making not-so-wise lifestyle choices like binge eating, smoking, or drinking. These unhealthy habits done in excess can negatively affect our health, especially our blood pressure. As one in four Americans continue to suffer from the epidemic of high blood pressure, it is imperative for us to effectively avoid and reduce this highly preventable disease associated with heart attack and stroke, aneurysms, cognitive decline, and kidney failure. Fortunately, there are ways to bring down blood pressure without the use of medication.
A 2013 review on yoga and blood pressure found an average blood pressure decrease of 3.62 mm Hg diastolic and 4.17 mm Hg systolic when compared to those who didn’t exercise. Studies of yoga practices that included breath control, postures, and meditation were nearly twice as effective as yoga practices that didn’t include all three of these elements (24).
It is notable that relaxation and meditation, though useful for many purposes, have not been found to impact high blood pressure. Many people find this surprising, possibly since high blood pressure also is known as “hypertension.” Because of this potentially misleading term, many people have assumed that high levels of stress or “tension” are a major cause of “hypertension,” or high blood pressure. This is not the case. High blood pressure is an essentially mechanical, and not psychological, problem.
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.)
Raw almonds: Consuming a handful of raw almonds can make a significant difference in your blood pressure. Almonds are considered a key component of the DASH diet—dietary approaches to stop hypertension diet—as they are rich in monounsaturated fats scientifically proven to lower cholesterol, reduce arterial inflammation, and lower blood pressure. It is important to note that almonds are high in fat and calories, but when eaten as part of a healthy lifestyle, they may actually promote weight loss and muscle growth.
If you have hypertension, ask your doctor if OSA could be behind it. (In addition to loud snoring, common symptoms include excessive daytime tiredness and early morning headaches.) Getting your sleep apnea under control could be helpful for improving your blood pressure, says Robert Greenfield, MD, Medical Director of Non-Invasive Cardiology & Cardiac Rehabilitation at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA.
5. Take apple cider vinegar. In addition to lowering blood pressure almost overnight, apple cider vinegar has a myriad of fringe benefits. Apple cider vinegar helps with indigestion, especially if you suffer from diarrhea. It also soothes sore throats, cures hiccups instantly, and lowers cholesterol. Most importantly, it helps with weight loss by improving metabolism and reducing water retention -- and a healthy weight is key to normalizing blood pressure.
Lowering high blood pressure is as easy as one, two, tea: Adults with mildly high blood pressure who sipped three cups of hibiscus tea daily lowered their systolic BP by seven points in six weeks, found Tufts University researchers. The phytochemicals in hibiscus are probably responsible for the large reduction in high blood pressure, the study authors say.
Such monitoring provides excellent information for patients and doctors. In fact, research shows that ABPM is a better predictor of future cardiovascular events (e.g. heart attacks, strokes) than conventional office-based BP measurements are. However, ABPM is not yet widely available, since it requires special equipment and may not be covered by insurance.
I would not recommend changing BP medications every 3-4 months just to prevent the onset of potential side-effects, but it certainly makes sense to reassess how you are doing on a BP med after a certain interval (usually after a few weeks, and then every few months or more often if the dose still needs to be refined or if there is concern about potential side-effects).
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.
For instance, in the ground-breaking SPRINT trial of intensive BP lowering in older adults, the researchers checked BP by having participants first rest quietly in a room for five minutes. Then an automatic monitor checked BP three times in a row, with a one-minute interval between each check. The average of these three readings was then used to assess BP and make changes to hypertension medications, if necessary.
One notable recommendation within the new guidelines is the focus on lifestyle changes first, and medication only if necessary. Like all meds, blood pressure medications come with their side effects, so it’s always worth it to work on diet, exercise and stress management first. Even if an individual receives only partial benefits from lifestyle changes, it may still mean reduced medication usage, or one with fewer side effects if necessary. Here are a few lifestyle changes that you start today to reduce your blood pressure naturally.
Add olive oil to your blood pressure shopping list. The main reason for this benefit is because of polyphenols. These compounds are known for fighting inflammation and reducing blood pressure, according to UCDavis. That’s why olive oil is a key part of the DASH diet and one of the foods that lower blood pressure. Next, check out the 11 things you need to know about the DASH diet.
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.