22 Ways to Effectively Lower Your Blood Pressure
11 minute read
Commonly known as high blood pressure, this health concern has no symptoms and is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke. About one in three American adults has high blood pressure and may not even know it.
We are all familiar with blood pressure tests when we go to the doctor. That momentary tight squeeze can tell you a lot about your health. Two key numbers are read out to you; your systolic and diastolic readings. The systolic number accounts for the pressure in your blood vessels as your heart beats, and the diastolic number records the pressure between beats, when your heart rests.
What do the numbers mean to you? A reading of 120/80mmHg is considered normal, 140/90mmHG is considered high, and the range between them is considered prehypertension. This is essentially the warning zone.
Changes You Can Make To Lower Your Blood Pressure
If you are in this zone, here are many lifestyle changes that you can incorporate into your routine to help get those numbers back into a normal range. And the best part is that you can do it without taking any drugs.
1. Add Strength Training
Aerobic exercise has a tremendous impact on lowering your blood pressure but when combined with strength training, the benefits are even greater. Many people thought that weight training was dangerous for blood pressure levels but this is not the case. Stronger muscles mean your heart does not have to work as hard.
| Related: The #1 Food To Fight Hypertension |
2. Work Up a Sweat
Exercise helps by increasing your heart and breathing rates. This helps your heart to get stronger and pump with less effort. Less pressure is put on your arteries, resulting in lower blood pressure. The average amount of exercise a person should get to stay healthy is about 150 minutes a week.
For those with high blood pressure, it is recommended that 40 of those minutes be dedicated to high-intensity workouts. This is not to say that super intense workout sessions are the only way to lower blood pressure. A brisk walk around the neighborhood each night will help, too.
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Extra weight causes health complications for most parts of your body. Dropping just five to ten pounds can lower blood pressure significantly. Those who put on extra weight around their bellies may notice greater increases in blood pressure.
4. Cut The Calories
Overeating leads to added weight, which directly contributes to high blood pressure but when you cut back on the amount of food you eat, you’ll also have the benefit of cutting your sodium intake. Reduce your calorie intake by restricting or eliminating processed or packaged foods, which are notoriously high in sodium.
Even low sugar and low fat foods are dangerous because salt is used to flavor when sugar and fat are missing. Always check labels. Sodium levels of 5% or less is considered low and okay to consume.
5. Watch Your Salt Intake
Most Americans already consume more salt than is advised by government health officials. Reducing your salt intake is a huge contributor to lowering blood pressure. Salt affects people differently. Some are extremely sensitive and get high blood pressure with the smallest amount whereas others are able to excrete high salt content efficiently without registering a change in their blood pressure.
A good strategy is to increase your potassium intake, which lessens the effect of salt. Consider including foods such as fish, fruits and vegetables in your diet to give you good doses of helpful potassium.
6. DASH Diet
The Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension diet is hailed as highly successful for those with high blood pressure. In fact, it can lower your systolic number by 8 to 14 points. The diet incorporates foods high in calcium, magnesium and antioxidants. You want to eat less red meats and sweet foods, and choose fish, poultry, whole grains, fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy instead.
7. Eat At Home
As mentioned, salt consumption may not be good for blood pressure. The reason Americans consume so much salt is largely because of the amounts used in restaurants. Even when people try to choose the low salt healthy options, they are consuming salt without being aware.
Many high-sodium foods do not have the characteristic 'salty' taste. When you stay home and cook your own food, you are in control of exactly how much salt is used.
8. Increase Protein Intake
People who eat more protein have been known to have lower risks of developing hypertension. With an average of 100 grams per day, there is a 40% lower risk. Try eating more foods such as fish, eggs, poultry, beef, nuts, beans and cheese.
9. Check Your Numbers
Keeping track of your own blood pressure numbers at home will not lower them but it does help you better understand what is healthy for you. Your blood pressure readings can vary throughout the day and in high stress situations like a doctor visit, results may not always be accurate.
By monitoring it at home each morning and evening, you can start to get a feel for where the true pressure lies Additionally, keeping track of this doubles as a great incentive to stay healthy.
Stress is not good for any part of our body, and it takes a heavy toll on blood pressure. Both long term and short term stress contribute to hypertension so it is strongly advised to learn how to relax. Stress is a part of everyday life, but so long as you are equipped to handle it and have adequate releases, it will not be as damaging to your health. Laugh, play a game, play with your kids, grand kids or pets, try yoga or meditation. Anything you enjoy will essentially melt the stress away.
11. Probiotic Power
Those who consume probiotic foods such as yogurt or take probiotic supplements have been shown to have lower blood pressure. While the exact role probiotics plays in blood pressure is not known, they provide many additional health benefits so they are generally a good idea.
| Related: Healthy Gut 101: What Are Probiotics |
12. Get Restful Sleep
A lack of restful sleep contributes to high blood pressure. Sleep deprivation also causes cravings, which lead people to eat more junk food, gain weight and feel stressed. With every hour less sleep you get on average, your odds of developing hypertension increases by 37%. It is also a good idea to take naps during the day. An hour long nap each day has been linked to drops in systolic blood pressure numbers.
13. Watch Your Alcohol Intake
Moderate alcohol consumption can have positive effects on blood pressure. So, one glass of wine each day will not hurt you. However, high alcohol consumption is linked to high blood pressure as well as putting you at risk for other chronic conditions, so more is not better. Binge drinking is also linked to prehypertension. For those who already have blood pressure concerns, drinking should be avoided or seriously limited.
14. Control Your Caffeine
A few cups of coffee a day is fine for most people but drinking huge amount of caffeinated beverages increases your chances of elevated blood pressure. Energy drinks can also have similar effects by causing irregular heart rhythms and spikes in blood pressure.
15. Quit Smoking
Smoking increase your blood pressure for a short interval directly afterwards. In the long term however, it does not seem to have much impact. That being said, smoking is seriously harmful to your heart health for a number of well documented reasons and those small spikes are definitely not ideal.
16. The Great Outdoors
Sunlight has been shown to cause a chemical reaction that causes blood vessels to widen and blood pressure to drop. So get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air. Walking in nature rather than your local urban environment is even more beneficial, with regular exposure contributing to lower blood pressure, reduced stress, and lower pulse rates.
More research is needed, but acupuncture has shown promise in lowering blood pressure. People report reductions directly after treatment and some even noticed further drops as monthly sessions continued.
18. Eat Some Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate with 60 to 70 % cacao has flavonoids that help to dilate blood vessels and improve blood pressure.
19. Medicinal Herbs
Medicinal herbs and ingredients like basil, cinnamon, cardamom, flax seed, garlic, ginger, Hawthorn, celery seed, French lavender, and Cat’s claw may help control hypertension. Always check with your healthcare provider before starting any supplements to make sure there are no interactions with other medications you are taking.
20. Supplemental Support
The following supplements have a great track record for reducing blood pressure.
21. Family Support
Your lifestyle influences your diet, exercise and stress levels. Ask family members for support, whether they can motivate you to stay on track or by not tempting you with pizza. That support will help you develop a healthier lifestyle.
22. Prescription Medication
As a last attempt, when you have tried alternatives and are not getting results or the lifestyle changes just do not work for you, you can always speak with your physician about medications. They can be helpful in improving the long-term game but you have to consider any other health conditions you may have and potential side effects.
The Bottom Line
There are many lifestyle changes you can make to help lower your blood pressure, from your diet and exercise routines to sleep and relaxation, even a playful game of tag or some laughs. While medication can help with hypertension, try these lifestyle changes, as well.