4. Find an exercise that works for you (and do it). Moving more can help reverse high blood pressure. One meta-analysis of 65 studies found regular exercise provides both an acute and longer-term reduction in blood pressure. Whether you’re an exercise novice or a conditioned athlete, these four strategies can help you create an effective workout plan to optimize health.
While most Americans with hypertension are treated primarily with drugs, “these drugs do not come close to eliminating all the cardiovascular ills associated with the typical American diet and sedentary lifestyle,” observes Danine Fruge, MD, Medical Director at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami. Over the last four decades, the Center has helped thousands worldwide lower blood pressure naturally and significantly reduce many cardiovascular risks.
Explore the articles below to learn more about blood pressure control and healthy living, and to start developing your own personal guide to lowering blood pressure. Even better, book a health vacation at Pritikin, recently described by The New York Times as the “granddaddy of health-based wellness spas.” Make a personal investment in what matters most – a longer life, a better life.
As high blood pressure often goes unnoticed, it’s common for people to live with it unawares for some time. As it’s a risk factor, it may be wise to check your blood pressure every few years, even if you’re feeling healthy in general. This advice is especially directed towards people who are middle-aged or older, as high blood pressure is more common with age.
Dr. Palanismy notes that a particular form of stress reduction called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has been proven in research studies to reduce blood pressure. This approach to stress reduction uses meditation, body awareness and movement such as yoga to help people better observe their experiences, instead of being completely immersed in them. This helps them take a step back in stressful situations.
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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.
First, keep in mind that drugs have limited success. Most studies on diuretics and other blood pressure-lowering drugs suggest they lower the risk of cardiovascular events among those with blood pressure between 140/90 and 159/99 by 15 to 20%.3 The problem is, with this range of blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular-related deaths has increased by 300 to 400% compared to people with normal blood pressure.
The final results of the NIH study will arrive in the coming months, but "it has changed in my practice. Like if I have someone in the low 140s, I no longer say that's sort of close. ... I try to push them down into the mid-130s if they are nondiabetic," Bisognano said. (Although this strategy might also help people with diabetes, Bisognano added, the NIH study only looked at people over 50 who did not have diabetes.)
As explained by Dr. Rosedale, insulin stores magnesium. If your insulin receptors are blunted and your cells grow resistant to insulin, you can't store magnesium so it passes out of your body through urination. Magnesium stored in your cells relaxes muscles. If your magnesium level is too low, your blood vessels will constrict rather than relax, which will raise your blood pressure and decrease your energy level. Insulin also affects your blood pressure by causing your body to retain sodium. Sodium retention causes fluid retention. Fluid retention in turn causes high blood pressure and can ultimately lead to congestive heart failure. If your hypertension is the direct result of an out-of-control blood sugar level, then normalizing your blood sugar levels will also lower your blood pressure readings into the healthy range.
In addition to these methods being effective, other lifestyle changes and diet adjustments may also be useful in lower blood pressure. One study explains that losing weight can have a significant positive impact on patients that have been diagnosed with hypertension. Even small reductions in bodyweight amongst those individuals who are both obese and hypertensive can yield life-saving benefits. Dietary changes can also help. In particular, the patient should aim to lower their daily intake of sodium, which causes an elevation in blood pressure. The patient should also focus on obtaining more calcium, potassium and other minerals that are useful in balancing blood pressure levels. Fiber, fruits and a lot of vegetables should also be an essential part of the patient’s daily diet.
Listening to your favorite song not only will improve your feeling of well-being but also lower your blood pressure. A study published in the journal Netherland Heart Journal found musicians had lower blood pressure than non-musicians because their somatosensory nerve activity benefited their autonomic nervous system. If you’re not a musician, listening to music alone, especially classical, will do just as good.
Providing at least 5 servings of vegetables and 4 servings of fruits daily, which help ensure that you eat plenty of foods that are full of stomach-filling volume yet are low in calories, enhancing weight-loss efforts. Losing excess weight is one of the most effective ways to lower blood pressure in the short term. Eating plenty of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables also means you’ll be eating excellent sources of potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Many studies have found that foods rich in these minerals help blunt some of the toxic effects of sodium.
As blood pressure tends to vary somewhat from day to day, it’s recommended to only diagnose someone with high blood pressure if they have given a repeatedly high reading. If the average of either of the readings (either the systolic or diastolic) is higher than the norm, it will be considered an elevated blood pressure. That is, an average of 150/85 or 135/100 over readings on several occassions will be considered too high.
How low should you go? Aim to keep your sodium intake below 1,500 mg for healthy blood pressure, recommends the American Heart Association. That’s about half of what most Americans consume per day. Going easy on the saltshaker can help, but you’ll make a bigger impact by watching the sodium count in packaged or processed foods, Obarzanek says. (Pay extra attention to bread and rolls, pizza, soup, cold cuts, poultry, and sandwiches, which tend to pack the most salt.) Then try these other simple ways to slash your salt intake.
Kiwis are another fruit that positively impacts blood pressure. Some researchers studied how the fruit fares compared to apples. They found that eating three kiwis a day over eight weeks reduced blood pressure in people with slightly high blood pressure more so than eating one apple per day during the same time. A daily serving of kiwi was also found to reduce blood pressure in people with only mildly elevated levels. Kiwis are also an excellent source of vitamin C which can also also improve blood pressure.
3. Quit soda. One 12-ounce can of soda contains about 40 grams of fructose, one of the leading high blood pressure risk factors in North America. Consuming 74 or more grams of fructose per day increases your risk of high blood pressure by 77 percent. For people accustomed to drinking a can or two of soda daily, cutting the pop can have a dramatic effect on blood pressure, even eliminating the problem altogether.
Eat berries. Berries have many health benefits, and one of them is improving blood pressure and reducing other heart disease risks. Berries, like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, have lots of polyphenols, which are great for your heart. They’re also really tasty. So, load up on the berries for better blood pressure. If you don’t like eating them all the time, try adding them to a smoothie made with low-fat or fat-free yogurt without added sugar. Throw in some ice, banana, and low-fat milk for a heart-healthy treat.
Your blood pressure is said to be “high” when either your systolic blood pressure is 140 or above, or your diastolic blood pressure is 90 or above, or both. So if your blood pressure is found to be 142/88 (systolic = 142, diastolic = 88), you are diagnosed as having high blood pressure, according to current definitions. The same would be true if your blood pressure was found to be 135/92, or 152/95. In each case, either the systolic is high, or the diastolic is high, or both. Any of these findings result in a diagnosis of high blood pressure.
A study shows that drinking 2 cups of a mix of three parts beetroot and one part apple juice can make your systolic blood pressure (the top number) go down in just a few hours. Men may see a bigger benefit than women. High systolic pressure can raise your chances of strokes. Cooked beets and beet greens, which pack lots of potassium, are a good alternative.
Watermelon seeds consist of a compound called cucurbocitrin, which helps broaden the blood capillaries. At the same time, it also works well for kidney function. This in results reduces blood pressure levels and also helps treat arthritis. To use this method, take 2 tsp of dried watermelon seeds and grind it to turn it into a fine powder. Add this powder to a glass of warm water. Leave it for about an hour. Now, drink this mixture regularly for better results.
Several Indian studies over the last few years have shown that Arjuna, in animals and in humans, reduces total cholesterol and increases HDL (“good” cholesterol). One study showed that this herb was as effective an antioxidant as vitamin E and that it reduced cholesterol in the human subjects quite substantially. Considering its benefit for cholesterol, it is not surprising that it lowers blood pressure; many cases of high blood pressure in the United States are caused by cholesterol accumulation in the arteries.
Another important step is to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight elevates your risk for high blood pressure and many other diseases and conditions. Losing just 5 percent of your body weight can have a significant positive impact on your blood pressure. Studies have shown that the combination of exercising and losing weight improves blood pressure numbers even more than either one alone. It may seem daunting to lose weight, but it is possible. Talk to your doctor about how other people have done it. And consider seeing a weight loss counselor too. You can do this! And after only a few pounds of healthy weight loss, you should start seeing your blood pressure numbers drop.
One of the most important lifestyle changes to adapt when hypertension affects a patient is a more active daily routine. Exercise is reported to be an exceptionally useful method for controlling blood pressure levels and for reducing blood pressure in patients diagnosed with hypertension. Additionally, patients who regularly participate in physical activities are also at a lower risk of developing a complication or complications due to high blood pressure.
“Beware of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 'Salty Six' — six popular foods that can add high levels of sodium to your diet,” says Rachel Johnson, PhD, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont in Burlington and the former chair of the AHA’s nutrition committee. The Salty Six include breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, sandwiches, pizza, soup, and chicken.