High blood pressure plays a contributing role in more than 15% of deaths in the United States, according to a Harvard study. Although it causes no symptoms, high blood pressure boosts the risks of leading killers such as heart attack and stroke, as well as aneurysms, cognitive decline, and kidney failure. Twenty-eight percent of Americans have high blood pressure and don't know it, according to the American Heart Association.
While medication can lower blood pressure, it may cause side effects such as leg cramps, dizziness, and insomnia. Fortunately, most people can bring down their blood pressure naturally without medication with home remedies for low blood pressure (called hypotension).
Regular physical activity — at least 30 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). It's important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again.
If you have slightly high blood pressure (prehypertension), exercise can help you avoid developing full-blown hypertension. If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels.
The best types of exercise for lowering blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program.
Eat a healthy diet
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
It isn't easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet:
- Keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat, even for just a week, can shed surprising light on your true eating habits. Monitor what you eat, how much, when and why.
- Consider boosting potassium. Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is food, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. Talk to your doctor about the potassium level that's best for you.
- Be a smart shopper. Read food labels when you shop and stick to your healthy-eating plan when you're dining out, too.
Go for a walk
Just a little exercise can make a difference. A Japanese study found that volunteers who exercised 30 to 90 minutes per week in a health club reduced blood pressure almost as much as those who had more than 90 minutes of sweat sessions every week. Try walking for 15 minutes every day to get the benefits. Here are easy ways to lose weight walking.
Load up on potassium
Potassium—sometimes called the “un-salt”—can lower blood pressure, but less than 2 percent of Americans get the recommended 4.7 grams of potassium a day. Avocados pack in more potassium than any other fruit or veggie, including bananas, so add some to your sandwich or salad for an nutritional boost. Other potassium-rich foods include cantaloupes, sweet potatoes, spinach, and lima beans. These are some of the healthiest vegetables and the healthiest fruits you can eat.
Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline
Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight also can cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea), which further raises your blood pressure.
Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure. Losing just 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) can help reduce your blood pressure.
Besides shedding pounds, you generally should also keep an eye on your waistline. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high blood pressure.
- Men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (102 centimeters).
- Women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (89 centimeters).
These numbers vary among ethnic groups. Ask your doctor about a healthy waist measurement for you.
Go heavy on the ground pepper
Cutting down on salt could make food taste bland for a few days, but pepper packs in lots of flavor so your taste buds won’t miss the lack of salt. Strong flavors like garlic, basil, and lemon can also help replace salt and train your tongue to stop craving all that sodium.
Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. In small amounts, it can potentially lower your blood pressure by 2 to 4 mm Hg.
But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol — generally more than one drink a day for women and for men older than age 65, or more than two a day for men age 65 and younger. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
Invest in a home blood pressure kit
People who regularly check their blood pressure at home have lower overall blood pressure than those who only have it taken at a doctor’s office. Plus, examiners couldn’t catch the 9 percent of people who had high blood pressure at home but not at the office, found a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That same study found that getting tested in the doctor’s office couldn’t identify the 13 percent of people who only had high blood pressure in the office and not at home, which is probably because of the anxiety of being in a doctor’s office. Buy your own kit for an accurate view of your health. Here are other things doctors might not tell you about healthy blood pressure.
Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. Quitting smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal. People who quit smoking, regardless of age, have substantial increases in life expectancy.
Consuming 4 tablespoons of flaxseed can lower systolic blood pressure in postmenopausal women who have a history of heart disease, a small study found. The seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which probably explains the effect. Try 2 tablespoons in your oatmeal or yogurt at breakfast, then sprinkle 2 tablespoons over soup or salad later in the day for a tasty crunch. Stock up on these 8 foods that naturally lower blood pressure.
Monitor your blood pressure at home and see your doctor regularly
Home monitoring can help you keep tabs on your blood pressure, make certain your lifestyle changes are working, and alert you and your doctor to potential health complications. Blood pressure monitors are available widely and without a prescription. Talk to your doctor about home monitoring before you get started.
Regular visits with your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is under control, you might need to visit your doctor only every six to 12 months, depending on other conditions you might have. If your blood pressure isn't well-controlled, your doctor will likely want to see you more frequently.
Replace coffee with tea
For every cup of tea you drink a day, systolic blood pressure could reduce by two points and diastolic pressure by one point, according to an Australian study. More than four cups, though, and the same benefits won’t show. Check out these other powerful health benefits of tea.
Meditating relieves stress, and numerous studies have shown it can lower blood pressure, too. Every day, carve out five minutes to sit quietly and repeat a mantra like “This, too, shall pass” or “Breathe.” Here are 10 ways to mediate every day without even trying at all.
Drink two glasses of orange juice
Volunteers who drank a glass of orange juice at morning and another at night reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of 7 percent and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 4.6 percent, found a Cleveland Clinic study. OJ is high in potassium, which probably explains the benefits.
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