While making these changes may not mean you can immediately go off your blood pressure medications or never have to take them, they will improve your overall health and reduce your risk for developing other diseases, including diabetes and possibly even cancer. Making healthy lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of stroke, heart attack or kidney damage, and reduce the likelihood that your dose of blood pressure medication will need to be increased in the future.
Studying men with hypertension who came to Pritikin, scientists at UCLA found that within three weeks, the men had significantly healthier levels of blood pressure. In fact, those who arrived at Pritikin taking hypertension drugs left Pritikin two to three weeks later no longer needing their medications, or with their dosages significantly reduced.1
Low- and no-fat dairy foods are good sources of calcium and protein, which can help maintain a healthy blood pressure. Try to get three servings of dairy every day. Choose skim or 1% milk and low- or no-fat cheeses and yogurt. Frozen low-fat yogurt is OK, too. One serving equals 1 cup of yogurt or milk, or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese -- about the size of three dice.
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Exercise is the soulmate to eating right. You’re more likely to lose weight if you exercise and follow a healthy diet. Official recommendations call for at least half an hour of exercise most days of the week. The effects can be dramatic: Blood pressure drops of 4 to 9 points. Remember that exercise isn’t just going to the gym. It can be gardening, washing your car, or housework. But things that get your heart rate up -- aerobic activities -- like walking, dancing, jogging, riding your bike, and swimming are best for your heart.
3. Implement strategies to lower inflammation. Several cross-sectional and longitudinal studies connect high blood pressure with chronic inflammation, a driving force for nearly every disease on the planet. Lowering inflammation starts with what you put on your fork. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods like wild-caught seafood (rich in omega-3 fatty acids), freshly ground flax and chia seeds, spices like turmeric, and plenty of colorful plant foods. Good sleep, stress management, exercise, and the right nutrients can also help lower inflammation.
Blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day, so measuring it in the morning might yield a different number than, say, the afternoon. Conditions like stress and lack of sleep can also fluctuate blood pressure. Visiting your doctor might feel nerve-wracking, which can elevate your blood pressure and create a condition called white coat hypertension.
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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.
Although medications can lower blood pressure, they may cause side effects such as leg cramps, dizziness, and insomnia. “The best habits to establish for reducing blood pressure are the same ones for a healthy life; follow an anti-inflammatory diet, do consistent low-level physical activity throughout the day, and the time plenty of time to reduce stress by learning how to smell the roses,” said Dr. Barry Sears, president of the Inflammation Research Foundation, to Medical Daily in an email. Lowering blood pressure can be attained without a prescription, not just by remaining alert on salty foods, but also with these five little-known everyday habits:
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1. Concentrate on foods that lower blood pressure. Sugary, processed foods contain salt, sugar, damaged fats, and food sensitivities like gluten that contribute to or exacerbate high blood pressure. Shifting to a whole, unprocessed foods diet can dramatically impact your blood pressure. Many whole, unprocessed foods are rich in potassium, a mineral that supports healthy blood pressure. Some research shows that too much sodium and low amounts of potassium – can contribute to high blood pressure. Research shows people with high blood pressure can benefit from increased potassium in foods including avocado, spinach, wild-caught salmon, and sweet potatoes.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Damage to your blood vessels occurs every time your pressure is elevated, and the new guidelines are meant to help people become more aware earlier. And through earlier awareness, it may help prevent the damage that would occur if you waited for a later diagnosis.
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.
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.
Chronic hypertension causes the arteries throughout a patient’s body to become damaged and can lead to additional complications that may yield fatal consequences, especially when left untreated. One study noted that there is a significant increase in the risk for coronary artery disease and stroke amongst people who have elevated or high blood pressure. The study also noted that developing this condition at a younger age seems to hold an opportunity for more risks.
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.
Common painkillers (so-called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAID), can increase your blood pressure by inhibiting the production of salt in your kidneys. This includes over-the-counter pills such as Ipren, Ibumetin, Ibuprofen, Diklofenak and Naproxen as well as the prescription drug Celebra. Painkillers with the active substance paracetamol are better for your blood pressure.
One of the easiest ways to manage your blood pressure is simply making healthy life choices such as eating low-sodium diet, committing to a regular exercise routine, and avoiding (excessive) alcohol. Smoking is one of the worst things that you can do to your cardiovascular system, and it’s important that you take steps to quit as soon as possible to avoid hypertension, even if you don’t yet suffer from it yet.
Most doctors have been taught that once a diagnosis of “high blood pressure” has been made, blood pressure medication is the treatment of choice. As a result, many physicians believe that the current definition of “high” blood pressure is also the same level of blood pressure at which drug treatments are worthwhile. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
If you’re not a fan of skim milk, yogurt could be a great alternative to fulfill your dairy needs and help fight/lower high blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, women who ate five or more servings of yogurt a week experienced a 20 percent reduction in their risk for developing high blood pressure. Dairy also contains calcium which is essential for healthy blood pressure since the mineral helps blood vessels tighten and relax when necessary, per Harvard Medical School.
Vegetables give you fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They don't have a lot of calories or fat -- a good recipe for controlling blood pressure. Have four to five servings of vegetables a day. That’s 1/2 cup of cooked or raw vegetables, 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables, or 1/2 cup of vegetable juice for each serving. Iffy about veggies? Start by adding a salad at lunch and dinner.
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.
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.
Many factors can cause your blood pressure to rise, and each factor may or may not require medication. Many people make lifestyle changes that lower their blood pressure without medication; especially for pre-hypertension and stage 1 of hypertension. Also, each time you take your blood pressure, make sure you are still and calm, sitting with both feet on the floor, arm supported on a flat surface, and you are measuring at the same time everyday. You can also take multiple readings in one sitting, but wait one minute between each reading. These steps will ensure you are providing your healthcare provider with the most accurate blood pressure reading!
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.
Aerobic activity can be an effective way to control high blood pressure. But flexibility and strengthening exercises such as lifting weights are also important parts of an overall fitness plan. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym every day to benefit from aerobic activity. By adding moderate physical activities to your daily routine will also help.
5. Breathing better. Slow, deep breathing has been shown repeatedly to lower blood pressure by lowering stress hormones. Try to take 10 minutes daily to stop, relax your shoulder muscles, and breathe slowly. The correct breathing technique will cause your belly to expand, while your chest barely moves. Check this by placing one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen until you learn to breathe this way naturally.
Note: The fasting and high blood pressure study described in this article was funded in part by a grant from the National Health Association. It was conducted at the Center for Conservative Therapy in Penngrove, California. The results appeared in the article, “Medically Supervised Water-Only Fasting in the Treatment of Hypertension,” published in June 2001 in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.