High blood pressure is also known as the silent killer as it often goes undiagnosed. Since there are no apparent symptoms, many of us are not even aware that we are suffering from hypertension. Medication is effective in treating high blood pressure, but it can also cause side effects like leg cramps, dizziness, and insomnia. Fortunately, you can lower blood pressure by making some lifestyle changes.
Also, high blood pressure can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. So, if you haven’t got your blood pressure checked in the last few months, you must visit your doctor.
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is measured in mmHg (millimeters of mercury). BP readings always involve two numbers and they are systolic blood pressure or the top number and diastolic blood pressure or the bottom number.
Systolic blood pressure
It is the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart is beating. This is also called as the top number.
Diastolic blood pressure
It is the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart is resting. This is also called as the bottom number.
Blood pressure range
If your blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg then you are in a normal or safe zone. Blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg and above 120/80 mmHg is considered as prehypertension (High-risk zone of getting high BP disease). Anything beyond 140/90 mmHg is considered as high blood pressure.
All in all, your blood pressure (BP) is dependent on how much blood your heart is pumping and how is the flow of blood in your arteries. High BP means narrower arteries.
Strategies to lower blood pressure naturally
Cut salt intake
When we take too much salt in our diet, our body has to work extra hard to flush out the extra sodium from our system. Our heart has to work extra hard to pump the blood, and this causes additional pressure.
According to research, dietary salt is a primary cause of high blood pressure (1). Though most of us should consume just half a teaspoon of salt a day, we take in much more thanks to the processed food that we eat.
So, have more home cooked meals with natural ingredients and go easy on the salt shaker.
Lose the extra weight
High blood pressure is directly linked to being overweight. If you carry extra weight around your waist, you are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.
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If the waist measurement of men is more than 40 inches and that of women is more than 35 inches, they are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.
Also, there are several weight loss diets which are believed to reduce blood pressure substantially.
Lose at least 5 percent of your body weight and soon it will result in lower blood pressure. Also, you will see a positive difference in your health (2).
Regular exercising is the best way to lower blood pressure. Exercise makes your heart stronger, and it becomes more efficient in pumping blood, and this brings down the pressure in the arteries.
If you cannot start exercise regime instantly then make some necessary changes in your lifestyle. For example, take stairs instead of lift, prefer walking rather than driving, occasionally cycle to your office, do household chores, play a sport and this list could be never-ending.
In fact, just 150 minutes of brisk walk or 75 minutes of running can lower blood pressure (3).
Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure. Our body reacts to stress by increasing the heart rate and constricting blood vessels. Breathing exercises, meditation, yoga (4) and tai chi can help in lowering stress hormones, which elevate enzymes that raises blood pressure.
Have a good sleep
If you are not having a good night sleep then chances are higher to develop high blood pressure. Your blood pressure lowers down when you are sleeping. Also, you should know how much sleep do you need as it varies with the different age group.
Tip: You can also perform meditation before sleep for getting sound sleep
Reduce alcohol consumption
Drinking too much alcohol can lead to an increase in blood pressure; however, drinking in moderation may be beneficial for your heart health. According to research, 16 percent of the high blood pressure cases are due to alcohol consumption (5).
Though this research also suggests that drinking in moderation may be beneficial to heart health, one must be careful about the amount of intake. Moderate drinking means one drink a day for women and two drinks per day for men. Anything more than this can be harmful.
Have a potassium-rich diet
Include potassium-rich fruits and vegetables like bananas, avocados, oranges, tomatoes, potatoes and green leafy vegetables in your diet. Potassium helps your body to get rid of sodium, and this helps in lower blood pressure in the blood vessels.
Our modern diet has a lot of processed foods that have increased our consumption of sodium and lowered the consumption potassium. Increased sodium has a dangerous effect on our heart health (6).
Indulge in dark chocolate
Dark chocolate contains flavanols, which make blood vessels more relaxed and help lower blood pressure (7). Daily consumption of just half an ounce of dark chocolate that contains 70 percent cocoa can help make a difference in your blood pressure.
Some studies have discovered that flavonoid-rich cocoa can improve several markers of heart health including lowering blood pressure. However, do not overindulge in this tasty treat as it may negate the ill-effects of cocoa.
Cut back on caffeine
Caffeine consumption can increase your blood pressure. However, there is little evidence to prove that having coffee regularly can cause a lasting increase in blood pressure (8).
In fact, some studies also suggest that people who drink tea and coffee on a regular basis have a lower risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. So, it seems that caffeine has a more significant impact on people who do not drink it regularly.
Switch to hibiscus tea
According to research by Tufts University, participants who drank up to three cups of hibiscus tea over a period of six weeks showed a decrease in their systolic blood pressure by 7 points. The researchers suggest that the phytochemicals present in hibiscus are responsible for this decrease in blood pressure.
When you smoke, your blood pressure stays up for many minutes after you have finished your cigarette. The chemicals in tobacco are known to cause damage to blood vessels and narrow your arteries.
Though studies have not found any substantial link between smoking and increased blood pressure, smoking is known to affect heart health.
Reduce sugar intake
Numerous studies have found a link between high sugar intake and high blood pressure. According to a study, women who drank one sugar-laden soda per day had higher blood pressure than those who had less than one such drink per day (9).
Most of the sugar we take is disguised under the name of high fructose corn syrup. Reduce your intake of such food to lower your blood pressure.
Switch to low-carb diet
All refined carbohydrates convert to sugar in the bloodstream and can cause health issues. Some studies have shown that low-carb diets can reduce blood pressure.
According to one study on people undergoing statin therapy, those who went on a low-carb diet for six weeks saw an improvement in blood pressure as compared to those who didn’t (10).
Add magnesium to your diet
Having a diet rich in magnesium is recommended to keep high blood pressure away (11). According to a study funded by the Indiana University School of Medicine Strategic Research Initiative, increase in daily intake of magnesium results in a reduction in blood pressure.
Increasing magnesium intake helps improve blood flow, and this helps reduce blood pressure.
Eat calcium-rich food
Calcium in the diet helps blood vessels contract and expand; it also helps in the transmission of signals in cells and nerves. When calcium levels are low, the arterial walls can tighten.
Calcium also helps to maintain a healthier sodium balance in the body, and this helps lower the blood pressure. So, add calcium-rich food like milk and other dairy products for healthy blood pressure levels.
Add berries to your diet
Berries are rich in polyphenols, which are suitable for the heart. According to a study, when middle-aged participants ate berries for eight weeks, they showed improvement in heart health including blood pressure.
In another study, when people consumed polyphenol-rich food including berries, they improved their markers of heart disease risk (12).
Try these natural supplements
These natural supplements have evidence to support their claims that they help in lowering blood pressure.
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Over to you
Lifestyle changes can help in lowering your blood pressure. Stay active, reduce stress and eat a healthier diet to lower your blood pressure and stay heart healthy.