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.
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.
In most cases where high blood pressure is diagnosed, the cause remains unclear. One review paper in the International Journal of Hypertension explains that this accounts for around 90% of all hypertension diagnosis and is usually referred to as essential hypertension. Secondary hypertension is diagnosed when a cause can be identified. Potential causes of secondary hypertension may include:
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.
Loading up on potassium-rich fruits and vegetables is an important part of any blood pressure-lowering program, says Linda Van Horn, PhD, RD, a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Potassium encourages the kidneys to excrete more sodium through urination, and that sodium excretion can help lower blood pressure.
Exercise. Doctors recommend at least 150 minutes per week of exercise to help reduce blood pressure. Brisk walking is excellent for reducing blood pressure and improving overall cardiovascular health, but other exercises can work too. Try jogging, riding a bike, swimming, dancing, or interval training to get your aerobic exercise. Strength training is also important to your heart health and can help reduce blood pressure.
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.)
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.
If you have not been active for quite some time or if you are beginning a new activity or exercise program, take it gradually. Consult your healthcare professional if you have cardiovascular disease or any other preexisting condition. It's best to start slowly with something you enjoy, like taking walks or riding a bicycle. Scientific evidence strongly shows that physical activity is safe for almost everyone. Moreover, the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks.
A long-term study concluded in 2014 found that people who ate more protein had a lower risk of high blood pressure. For those who ate an average of 100 grams of protein per day, there was a 40 percent lower risk of having high blood pressure than those on a low-protein diet (33). Those who also added regular fiber into their diet saw up to a 60 percent reduction of risk.
The heartening news is that most people can effectively control their blood pressure without the need for medications by following a healthy lifestyle like the Pritikin Program. “Those who still need medications usually require a lower dose and/or fewer drugs, thereby reducing their risk of suffering adverse side effects from the medications,” states Dr. Fruge.
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While you shouldn't shrug off the change, there's also no need to panic. "Obviously, nothing happened overnight inside a woman's body or to her health with the release of the guidelines," says Dr. Naomi Fisher, director of hypertension service and hypertension innovation at the Brigham and Women's Hospital Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Hypertension, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
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.
Sunny days not only boost our mood, but they can help keep our blood pressure in check. A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found exposure to sunlight can alter the levels of nitric oxide in the skin and blood, therefore reducing the blood pressure. When exposed to sunlight, small amounts of nitric oxide are transported from the skin to the circulation lowering blood vessel tone. This decreases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
It's time to heed your partner's complaints and get that snoring checked out. Loud, incessant snores are a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a disorder characterized by brief yet potentially life-threatening interruptions in breathing during sleep. And many sleep apnea sufferers also have high levels of aldosterone, a hormone that can boost blood pressure, according to University of Alabama researchers. In fact, it's estimated that sleep apnea affects half of people with high blood pressure.
Get moving at least a little bit every day, with a standard recommendation of 30-60 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week. Get your heart pumping at a moderate intensity for a few times a week, and mix it up with some strength training. Because life happens, on the days when you can’t fit it in, try to build more activity into your day by parking further away, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or even just doing a quick sprint or two up and down the block. Every little bit helps.