High blood pressure in the American population is a huge issue. It increases the risk of serious illness or death, playing a supporting role in over 15% of all deaths in the United States. The most disconcerting fact is it is preventable.
The American Heart Association asserts that 28% of the U.S. population is unaware they have high blood pressure. This leads to increased morbidity or even death from heart attacks, stroke, aneurysms, and kidney failure.
Medication is the most common response for those with high blood pressure, but the side effects carry risks. While there are some individuals that will need medication, most people can lower their blood pressure naturally.
Natural Methods to Lower High Blood Pressure
Get to an Appropriate Weight
Excess body fat carries a broad range of issues, with increased blood pressure being a major concern. While the remaining tips will help control blood pressure, they will be more efficacious when paired with a proper diet and weight management.
Moderate Exercise, Such as Power Walks
Exercise has a distinct impact on keeping blood pressure at desirable levels. Activity aids in a more efficient cardiovascular system by allowing the heart to use oxygen more efficiently. Engaging in brisk walking of 30 minutes or more per day can help lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients by up to eight points.
It has been found that mimicking breath patterns of those that are relaxed can yield positive side effects. Slow, controlled breaths and meditative practices can help lower heart rates and tension. By reducing stress hormones, the production of renin (a kidney enzyme that raises blood pressure) is decreased. Yoga and tai chi are two forms of exercise that incorporate proper diaphragmatic breathing.
Dissect Your Daily Diet
Weight management was mentioned earlier, but this point is a bit different. Yes, “healthy” foods that are low in fat are important. But there are ingredients lurking in your food…pro and con…that will impact your blood pressure. For example, foods high in soy and milk protein have a positive effect, particularly if they are replacing refined carbohydrates.
Potassium-rich fruits and vegetables are a great place to start. Bananas are a common fruit mentioned, but orange juice, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, peas, potatoes (regular and the sweet variety) and kidney beans also rank highly. A potassium level ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 mg per day is ideal.
There are several health benefits linked to moderate chocolate intake. Dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa contains flavanols. One potential side effect is increasing the elasticity of blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure in many test subjects that ate dark chocolate every day.
On the other end of the spectrum, salt is a trigger for increasing blood pressure. The elderly and those with a family history of hypertension tend to be more salt-sensitive, but otherwise healthy individuals can also fall into this class. Monitoring sodium intake is simply a prudent step for everyone.
Nutritionists recommend around 1,500 mg of sodium daily, which is about half of what is found in the average American diet. But the issue isn’t the salt shaker; it’s the sodium that is lurking in prepared foods. It is an easy substitute for herbs and spices to add flavor, as well as adding points to systolic readings. It is definitely worth a few moments to read the labels.
Switch what you Sip
Similar to the foods Americans eat, beverage options also have an impact on blood pressure. Coffee has come under scrutiny and a blood pressure booster because of the caffeine levels. A Duke University Medical Center study found that two 12-ounce cups of coffee can have a measurable impact on blood pressure that lasts the entire day. On average, that equates to 350 mg of caffeine, which is comparable to nine cans of soda.
Tea is generally seen as a healthier alternative. It typically is much lower in caffeine and herbal teas often contain hibiscus. The phytochemicals in hibiscus-rich tea are believed to lower blood pressure. A Tufts University study found that participants who sipped 24 oz. of tea per day had an average systolic decrease of seven points after six weeks, which is on-par with many blood pressure medications.
Moderate alcohol consumption also has its advantages. There have been numerous studies that show blood pressure improves with a decrease in alcohol consumption. However, they also reveal that participants that engaged in light drinking (about a half- to one-serving per day) actually lowered their blood pressure more than those that abstained from alcohol consumption. The depressive effects of moderate alcohol likely assist with relaxation.
Manage Work Weeks
A University of California, Irvine study found that excessive work weeks (more than 41 hours) raised hypertension risk by 15%. The reasons seem clear, as longer work weeks reduce time for health-related activities such as exercise and planning healthy meals. Jobs that require longer hours also tend to be higher stress. Other demands may make it difficult to cut down time at the office, so scheduling in time for a power walk and planning meals are important.
Pick the Right Music
Music can have a drastic impact on heart rates and biorhythms. Some beats will actually add to hypertension, while classical, Celtic and other soft music can lower blood pressure. When combined with controlled diaphragmatic breathing for 30 minutes a day, a marked decrease in blood pressure was realized.
While there are many causes of snoring, one of the common culprits is sleep apnea. It is estimated that half of sleep apnea sufferers also have hypertension. A combination of snoring and high blood pressure is a possible sign of sleep apnea, and treating can lower levels of aldosterone, a hormone that is believed to increase blood pressure.