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.
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:
Although certain supplements may be helpful, it's important to understand they should never be used as a substitute for basic lifestyle choices that treat the real cause of the problem. Using only supplements without modifying your lifestyle is an allopathic approach not very different from using drugs. In most instances, it is not likely to be effective. Once you have made some beneficial changes to your lifestyle, you can then consider some of the following supplements as a way to further enhance your health:
Eat dark chocolate. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are both full of heart-healthy plant compounds called flavonoids. Flavonoids are good for you because they cause your blood vessels to dilate, which can help lower blood pressure. Just make sure your chocolate doesn’t have too much sugar. Choose chocolate that is at least 70 percent dark for best results. You can buy individually wrapped chocolate pieces that are the perfect size. Eat one or two a day and enjoy the delicious heart-protective effects.
6. Getting (a little) sunshine. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh confirmed previous studies that found that subjects exposed to UV light experienced a significant drop in blood pressure, apparently because the sun’s rays convert nitrate stored in your skin to nitric oxide, a compound that helps blood vessels retain their elasticity. Of course, you should never spend more than 10 minutes a day in the sun without sunscreen, because of the risk of skin cancer.
Those who received a placebo drink improved their reading by only 1 point. The phytochemicals in hibiscus are probably responsible for the large reduction in high blood pressure, say the study authors. Many herbal teas contain hibiscus; look for blends that list it near the top of the chart of ingredients for low blood pressure—this often indicates a higher concentration per serving.
"This is notable because there (are) a lot of people out there with blood pressure in the 130s that we might previously have left alone, but if the results of this trial (are) as we think they are, it might be reason to try to get them to 120," said Dr. John D. Bisognano, professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center and president-elect of the American Society of Hypertension.