Our bodies react to tension by releasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline into the blood. These hormones can raise your heart rate and constrict blood vessels, causing your blood pressure to spike. But slow breathing and meditative practices such as qigong, yoga, and tai chi can help keep stress hormones—and your blood pressure—in check, Williams says. (And if you haven't heard, health benefits of meditation include reduced inflammation, natural pain relief, and more.) Start with five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night and build up from there. The breathing exercise above is designed to help you fall asleep fast.
Fruits offer lots of fiber and vitamins that are good for your heart. Many also have potassium and magnesium, which lower blood pressure. Have four to five servings of fruit every day. One serving is a medium apple or orange, or 1/2 cup of frozen, fresh, or canned fruit. One-half cup of fruit juice or 1/4 cup of dried fruit also counts as a serving. Try adding bananas or berries to your breakfast cereal or have fruit for dessert.
Garlic: Garlic has long been thought to reduce hypertension. Studies show that garlic extract can lower blood pressure, although the optimal dose, frequency, and form are not well established. Garlic may produce this effect by acting directly on the kidneys to eliminate excess salt. It is considered a safe spice to consume, although it can cause some stomach upset.
It’s important to pace yourself properly when exercising. If you’re just starting a program, aim at the lowest part of your target zone (50 percent) during the first few weeks. Gradually build up to the higher part of your target zone (85 percent). After six months or more of regular exercise, you may be able to exercise comfortably at up to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. However, you don’t have to exercise that hard to stay in shape.
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.